Prepared Opening Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee
Hearing on “KleptoCapture: Aiding Ukraine through
Forfeiture of Russian Oligarchs’ Illicit Assets”
Tuesday, July 19, 2022
hearing offers this committee an opportunity to discuss a matter of international
importance. As we speak, Russia is continuing its lawless and unprovoked
invasion of its neighbor, Ukraine. The scourge of this Russian aggression has
mercilessly taken the lives of thousands of Ukrainian people.
oligarchs are a critical part of the Russian war machine. What are oligarchs? They’re
the massively wealthy criminals and confidants of Vladimir Putin. These
oligarchs amassed obscene fortunes through corrupt dealings with the Russian
regime – a regime with no respect for the rule of law and shot through with
dishonesty, bribery, and greed.
reports state there are only about 60 to 70 Russian oligarchs. Though small in
number, the illegal wealth of these oligarchs is astounding. Prior to the
unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, the estimated net
worth of these shameful Russians was approximately $530 billion.
illegal mountain of money is marked by corruption and stained with blood. In
this way, these Russian criminals are no different than ruthlessly violent drug
trafficking cartels or other sophisticated, cash-rich criminals. And like drug
cartels, these oligarchs like to spend, hide and launder their dirty money. We’ve
all read about the multi-million-dollar luxury yachts that these criminals use
to sail around the world while leaving death and destruction in their wake.
the unprovoked Russian attack of Ukraine was rightly and swiftly met with sanctions
from both our nation and others. The Russian attack also led the Senate to
authorize military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, which I supported. There
are other ways our country can help support Ukraine’s effort to fight back
against Russian aggression. We have several powerful legislative tools that we
can deploy against those oligarchs who have corruptly profited from the Putin
regime. With these statutory tools, we can go after them and their assets.
should seek the full measure of justice against these high-level criminals. And
this means not only taking their assets, but we should also seek to convict and
imprison these oligarchs if they come within U.S. jurisdiction. However, unlike
Russia, we are a nation that respects the rule of law, and we should do our
best to ensure the legislation we craft complies with our Constitution and is
going to be upheld by the courts. Otherwise, we run the risk of convictions
being reversed and assets being given back to the very criminals we’re seeking
to hold accountable.
our anti-money laundering laws is one way we can go after criminals’ ill-gotten
gains. This is why I reintroduced earlier this year the Combatting Money
Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Counterfeiting Act of 2022. I’m glad
to say that Senator Whitehouse is my Democratic lead sponsor, and that Senator
Cornyn is an original cosponsor. This legislation would improve law
enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute criminals who launder money
through our financial system.
we can do more. The administration has recommended several proposals to target
the oligarchs’ wealth and assets. I agree with several of these requests,
including expanding our RICO Act to include other offenses that will be useful
against cash-rich criminals, including oligarchs.
up the RICO statute will provide U.S. prosecutors with the tools they need to
secure convictions against these high-level criminals and take their assets.
unforced errors must be avoided. We could end up handing the oligarchs an unfortunate
victory by not carefully crafting our legislation so that it passes
constitutional muster. Unfortunately, portions of the administration’s proposal
are incomplete, poorly drafted and too narrow in their application.
many years, I’ve been a watchdog over our criminal and civil systems that
deprive criminals of their profit. These systems are powerful but can sometimes
be abused and turned into a confiscation system, something that is contrary to
clear that we need more tools to fight sophisticated oligarchs, cartels, and
other transnational criminal organizations. This is why I support some needed
modifications to our existing system, including raising the dollar threshold
for some types of administrative forfeiture and making it easier to use
classified information in these proceedings.
legislative changes we do must be calculated carefully to improve the current
system overall, without unnecessary litigation risk.
thank our witnesses for being here today and I look forward to hearing their