House passes bill urging Biden to sell confiscated Russian yachts to help Ukraine 2022-04-27 16:22:29

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WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday that urges doing so in a symbolic form President Biden To sell the frozen luxury assets of Russian oligarchs affected by the sanctions and use the funds to provide additional military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

The legislation is nonbinding, but 417-8 paragraphs reflected a bipartisan desire on Capitol Hill for the president to take a more aggressive stance as the United States and European allies grapple over what to do with captured Russian assets in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

It came a day after Attorney General Merrick B. Garland told a Senate committee that the administration would ask Congress for expanded power to seize and liquidate Russian property.

“We will support legislation that would allow some of this money to go directly to Ukraine,” Mr. Garland told the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat and majority leader, is consulting with the Biden administration on this issue and would like to include a provision giving the president the power to sell confiscated Russian assets in the legislation to send additional aid to Ukraine, which is Congress. It is expected to be seen in the coming days, a spokesperson said.

Mr. Garland’s comments gave a boost to the bill’s supporters, who have struggled with a series of thorny legal issues in their attempts to find a way for the United States to turn items such as yachts and luxury apartments into actual reparations for the Ukrainians still under control. siege.

The move is almost unprecedented and would be a significant expansion of presidential sanctioning power, though experts they clash About whether Mr. Biden He would need to seek new legal authority from Congress to liquidate the assets.

Representatives Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., and Joe Wilson, R-South, who sponsored the legislation that passed Wednesday, argued that the Biden administration should sell confiscated luxury goods in line with newly expanded sanctions and divert the proceeds to the Ukrainian war effort, Instead of letting the property weaken and eventually return it.

“Can we imagine,” Malinovsky asked before the House of Representatives on Wednesday, “giving all of Russia’s wealth — yachts, bank accounts, villas, planes —,” a Ukrainian flag hung on the lapel, to Putin and his cronies. As Ukraine lies in ruins, as Ukrainians are buried Their dead? We can’t imagine doing that. We wouldn’t.”

In recent weeks, law enforcement officials have seized a growing list of multimillion-dollar luxury yachts across Europe. In April, the FBI worked in coordination with Spanish authorities Take the 250-foot-tall Tango, $90 million, which is said to be owned by Russian energy magnate Viktor F. Unless ships are maintained, they risk becoming environmental pests, Experts warned.

Early attempts to enact the law quickly faltered after lawmakers on the Committee on Foreign Affairs and attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union raised concerns that the legislation could interfere with the legal protections of individuals, by denying the right to Russians who own the confiscated items. To challenge such action and possibly recover their property. Those were the fears Earlier reported by The Washington Post.

“The problem with the bill as it was presented is that the complete absence of any legal protections is likely to result in a court giving Russia a propaganda win by having a US court invalidate the penal code and the penalties themselves,” Christopher Anders said. Director of Federal Policy at the ACLU

In response to these concerns, lawmakers significantly watered down the bill, making it a non-binding resolution calling on the administration to convene an “interagency working group” tasked with identifying “constitutional mechanisms by which the president can take steps to seize and confiscate” the assets of the oligarchs who have been punished with sanctions.

The Biden administration seemed to accept the idea. Jake Sullivan, National Security Adviser to Mr. Biden, He said this month that “while we seize these assets, our goal is not to return them; our goal is to make better use of them than that.”

He said it would represent a “fairly significant” shift in the way sanctions are structured Richard Nevo, a senior researcher at Columbia University. The current theory behind freezing the assets of malicious actors is to bring about a change in behavior that will lead to these individuals regaining access to their property.

“It really does create some real questions about the precedents and how that would apply in other cases,” said Mr Nevo.

“You could say, ‘We have this war with all this destruction’ – that’s good and limited,” said Mr. Nephew. “But there is no specific reason for Ukraine to be considered a much more special case” than other crises perpetrated by governments that have been punished with sanctions, including those in Libya and Iran.

Mr. Malinowski has argued that his legislation is narrowly tailored to apply to a uniquely egregious situation. He argued that corrupt Russian oligarchs seeking to keep state-owned assets should not have the same due process rights as an American citizen.

“Although the assets may nominally belong to individuals, all of us who understand how Russia operates know that these are state-owned assets,” Mr. Malinovsky said at a recent hearing. They are allowed to manage these assets on Putin’s behalf in exchange for their loyalty to the regime. They earned this money by stealing it in a country where there is no due process, and then they take advantage of our legal process to protect it.”

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