By Godson Umejiego, Senior Correspondent USA
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is announcing its efforts to support the multilateral Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) Task Force, announced earlier by the US Department of the Treasury and the US Department of Justice. The task force aims to deny and disrupt illicit actors’ ability to deceptively access the international financial system and conduct economic activity.
FinCEN is supporting Treasury’s efforts to boost cooperation and intelligence sharing by agreeing to increase information sharing with relevant authorities in task force member countries. FinCEN is also issuing a FinCEN Alert, which highlights the importance of financial institutions identifying and quickly reporting suspicious transactions by sanctioned Russian elites and their proxies that involve real estate, luxury goods, and high-value assets.
“Financial intelligence is fundamental to US bilateral and multilateral efforts to trace, freeze, and seize the corrupt gains of Russian elites and their enablers,” said FinCEN Acting Director Himamauli Das. “It is critical that financial institutions increase their awareness of indicators of potential Russian sanctions evasion and that governments work together to collect and share information in this rapidly evolving crisis. We appreciate the collaboration of our financial institution and government partners in this effort.
“Today, FinCEN joined the financial intelligence units (FIUs) of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands in issuing a statement of intent to form an FIU Working Group on Russia-Related Illicit Finance and Sanctions. The FIUs affirmed the need to identify concrete actions that participating Working Group Members can take individually or collectively to enhance financial intelligence on sanction-related matters; expedite and increase sharing of financial intelligence in sanction-related matters; establish FIU best practices based on lessons learned, and identify opportunities for actions and partnerships to combat the threat caused by Russia’s unprovoked invasion into Ukraine; and strengthen and facilitate working relationships between FIUs and competent public authorities and the private sector addressing that threat, including by engaging with the REPO Task Force.
“Also today, FinCEN issued an Alert to financial institutions on the importance of identifying and quickly reporting suspicious transactions involving real estate, luxury goods, and other high-value assets of sanctioned Russian elites and their proxies. The Alert provides select red flags to assist financial institutions in identifying suspicious transactions, and reminds financial institutions of their Bank Secrecy Act reporting obligations. Because real estate, luxury goods, and other high-value assets can be used as a store of value, a medium of exchange, or an investment, Russian elites and their proxies may use such assets to evade expansive US and other sanctions and restrictions imposed in response to their support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In addition, FinCEN is continuing robust engagement with financial institutions, including through its public-private partnership FinCEN Exchange, to explore typologies and share best practices to enable the private sector to better identify corrupted gains by elites, oligarchs, and their proxies and provide FinCEN and law enforcement with critical information to track, freeze, and seize the assets of Russian elites and their proxies.”