The Department of Justice consulted with the Senate Judiciary Committee on a proposal to use laws designed to target the mafia to seize Russian assets. The DoJ legal scheme won immediate support from the committee’s top members.
The Department’s plan calls for the definition of racketeering to be expanded under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO Act. The DoJ recommendation will allow US attornies to charge violations of sanctions and export controls as racketeering.
Defense attorney Noam Biale of law firm Sher Tremonte told The Hill that US courts are unlikely to contest the Justice Department’s strategy. “But the courts have been quite open to prosecutors using RICO in expansive ways to charge different kinds of organizations,” he added. “For all the criticisms, I don’t see the courts being likely to move in a different direction on this if the government is going to use this statute against Russian oligarchs,” she said.
After hearing the pitch, Republican Chuck Grassley and Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse voice support. “What we’re trying to craft here is something that is quite narrow and I believe is consistent with the due process concerns of the United States Constitution,” Whitehouse said.
Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn asked a DoJ official if the new interpretation of RICO could also be used against China. “So these proposals that would aid in the prosecution and the asset forfeitures for Russia — is that going to extend to other high-level, cash-rich criminals like the cartels or the Chinese Communist Party?” she asked.
The Department of Justice is targeting the assets of Russia as a part of the US economic war against Moscow. Many Russians who have had their high-value goods targeted have not supported the war launched by President Valdimir Putin.