Source: Robb Report
The US House of Representatives yesterday passed legislation calling on President Joe Biden to sell the seized yachts, private jets and other assets owned by sanctioned Russian oligarchs. While the legislation yesterday passed 417 to 8, it remains non-binding. But it shows that Congress wants Biden to take a more aggressive stance against Russia, as the US and EU weigh how to handle the yachts they have seized over the past eight weeks.
The legislation calls for the president to sell the frozen assets and use the proceeds to provide military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. It was passed a day after Attorney General Merrick B. Garland told a Senate panel that the Biden administration wanted expanded authority to confiscate and liquidate Russian property, according to the New York Times. “We would support legislation that would allow some of that money to go directly to Ukraine,” Garland told the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.
The US seized the $90-million superyacht Tango with authorities in Spain earlier this month, while Italian, French, German, UK, Dutch and Finnish authorities have confiscated dozens of other yachts in the last six weeks. The largest yacht among the oligarchs is Dilbar, which was officially impounded in Hamburg on April 13. Its estimated value is between $600 and $700 million.
But the concept of seizing and immediately selling the yachts and other assets has met with challenges from the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and others. The ACLU said the move could run counter to legal protections for individuals by depriving the Russians who owned the items of any chance of challenging the actions and possibly regaining their property.
“The problem with the bill as introduced was that the complete absence of any due process protections would likely have resulted in a court handing Russia a propaganda win by having an American court invalidate both the sanctions law and the sanctions themselves,” Christopher Anders, the federal policy director at the ACLU, told the Times.
Amid these legal questions and without means of enforcement, the legislation calls on the president to set up an “interagency working group” to determine the “the constitutional mechanisms through which the president can take steps to seize and confiscate” the sanctioned oligarchs’ property.
Inside the House, the mood remains decidedly anti-oligarch.
Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) was one of the Congressional representatives who sponsored the legislation. “Can we imagine giving all of Russia’s wealth—the yachts, the bank accounts, the villas, the planes—back to Putin and his cronies as Ukraine lies in ruin, as the Ukrainians bury their dead? We cannot imagine doing that. We will not do that,” Malinowski said on the House floor.