Daily Column – 23rd March 2022

The world’s smallest violin is playing as the EU, the UK, and the US work together to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs who have been banned from the country. During his State of the Union speech earlier this month, President Biden said that the West would “seize your yachts.” We are going to take your money that you didn’t earn. Then so far…

The superyachts owned by wealthy Russians have been seized in Italy, France, Spain, and Gibraltar, which is part of the United Kingdom and part of the EU.

Alexey Mordashov’s real estate complex, worth about $116 million, has been taken by Italy.

What is the process of taking over an asset?

There are still oligarchs who own their yachts and real estate, but they can’t sell or transfer them. This means that their mansions are bolted shut and their ships are stuck in harbours. There could be a long journey ahead for governments to get their hands on the assets, and tying a knot with a cleat is just the first step.

The next step in the U.S. and most European countries is to show that the oligarchs did things that were illegal in court. In the US, if someone is sued, they have to show that assets were either used to commit a crime or bought and kept with money that came from a crime. From there, the government can sell the assets as their own and make money from them. But it takes a very long time. As an example:

Courts for the federal government took nearly a decade to decide one New York City building linked to the Iranian government could be taken. It was still thrown out two years after that because of mistakes.

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko was sentenced to 15 years in prison for money laundering, but the case to seize his assets took more than 15 years to finish.

If a lawsuit takes too long, yachts could get wrinkly fingers from sitting in the water for too long. Without proper care, their value will go down and become a drain on government funds.

Some US lawmakers have come up with a way to speed things up: Congress is working on a bill that would let authorities seize any property worth more than $5 million and sell it, then send the money to Ukraine. The “Yachts for Ukraine Act” is what it’s called.

If the process isn’t sped up, it might not happen until after the war is over. A broiler in an oven isn’t going to be used very much until then.

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