(NewsNation) — Despite international sanctions against Russia’s wealthiest, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, there is growing concern that those penalties won’t even touch the billions of dollars the Russians have globally.
Western allies have vowed to punish Russian oligarchs for their ties to Putin and support for the invasion of Ukraine. The White House earlier this month released a list of “Putin’s cronies,” whose assets are being targeted in order to make sure Russia’s rich and powerful feel the heat. The Atlantic Council estimates Russians have about a trillion dollars of dark money hidden globally.
That means about 55% of the nation’s wealth is stored in offshore accounts in places like Switzerland, Cyprus and even the United States, the National Bureau of Economic Research reports.
Besides just storing it in offshore bank accounts, the Global Financial Integrity Group estimates about $2.3 billion has been laundered through U.S. real estate.
This can be in Sunny Isle Beach, Florida — also known as “Little Moscow”— a hotspot where rich Russians spend their winters.
Top Russian realtor Lana Bell showed NewsNation some of the properties, including a Russian-owned multimillion-dollar oceanfront condo.
“They love to be here, spend their money and enjoy their life,” Bell said.
But the condos can also be used as “ghost condos” to hide assets.
“Many of those condos will be dark pretty much for the life of those buildings even though someone owns them, is paying for them, is paying the taxes and insurance, utilities because they didn’t buy it to live there,” real estate expert Daniel Gielchinsky said. “They bought it as a vehicle to keep dollars safe when other parts of the world are considered declining and unsafe.”
Notably, oligarchs have even given some of their vast wealth to U.S. charities. For example, one oligarch gave $13.5 million to arts and culture organizations like New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
The United States and its allies have announced a plethora of sanctions against Russia over the course of the last month.
Biden said the U.S. and its allies are doing everything to “squeeze Putin” after weeks of unprovoked attacks in Ukraine, calling Putin the aggressor in the situation.
“He can’t pursue a war that threatens the very foundations of international peace and stability then ask for financial help from the international community,” Biden said.