Merrick Garland warns Russian oligarchs: 'We will find you'

Biden’s DOJ charges Russian oligarch with sanctions violations: Merrick Garland mentions US involvement in the Nuremberg trials and says ‘it does not matter how far you sail your yacht, we will hold you accountable’

  • The DOJ held a press conference in which officials announced a series of moves made to crack down on Russian operatives amid Moscow’s Ukraine invasion 
  • The attorney general pledged to continue cooperating with European allies to tighten the economic noose on Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin allies 
  • Russian media baron Konstantin Malofeyev was accused of ‘flagrantly and repeatedly’ violating western sanctions imposed by his role in Crimea 
  • Justice Department officials say he’s continued to try to open media outlets throughout Europe with a mission to ‘spread pro-Kremlin misinformation’ 
  • Garland vowed to hold those responsible for ‘atrocities’ in Bucha ‘accountable’
  • Russian troops until recently occupied the Kyiv suburb and have been accused of the senseless slaughter and rape of innocent civilians there 
  • Images from Bucha show burned bodies and corpses lying dead in the street
  • WARNING: Some images below are graphic 

President Joe Biden’s Justice Department on Wednesday charged a Russian oligarch with violating U.S. government sanctions, and Attorney General Merrick Garland shared a stark warning for Kremlin elites trying to avoid the West’s economic crackdown.

‘Our message to those who continue to enable the Russian regime through their criminal conduct is this: It does not matter how far you sail your yacht. It does not matter how well you conceal your assets,’ Garland said during a morning press conference.

‘It does not matter how cleverly you write your malware or hide your online activity. The Justice Department will use every available tool to find you, disrupt your plots, and hold you accountable.’

He pledged to continue to work with other Western governments to hold Moscow’s power players accountable after its autocratic leader Vladimir Putin ordered a brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in late February. 

In remarking on atrocities allegedly committed by Russian troops in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, which had been under Kremlin forces’ occupation, Garland recalled the American government’s involvement in the Nuremberg trials. The Allied governments had forced Nazi war criminals to answer for their actions in the post-World War II hearings. 

‘We have seen the dead bodies of civilians, some with bound hands, scattered in the streets. We have seen the mass graves. We have seen the bombed hospital, theater and residential apartment buildings. The world sees what is happening in Ukraine. The Justice Department sees what is happening in Ukraine,’ Garland warned. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland shared a stark warning for Russian oligarchs who are attempting to evade Western sanctions during a press conference announcing charges against a Moscow media baronw

‘This department has a long history of helping to hold accountable those who perpetrate war crimes. One of my predecessors, Attorney General Robert Jackson, later served as the chief American prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials.’

Garland said U.S. prosecutors would continue to work with allies in Europe to identify those involved and hold them accountable.  

The Wednesday indictment against Konstantin Malofeyev, a Russian media baron and founder of Russian Orthodox news channel, Tsargrad TV, is the first of an oligarch since the Russian invasion in February. 

Konstantin Malofeyev is a Russian media baron who the Justice Department accused of ‘flagrantly and repeatedly’ violating sanctions levied against him over his role in the Kremlin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine

The case accuses him of evading Treasury Department sanctions resulting from his financing of Russians promoting separatism in Crimea.   

‘We have our eyes on every dollar and jet. We have our eyes on every piece of art and real estate, purchased with dirty money and on every bitcoin wallet filled with proceeds of theft, and other crimes,’ Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said.

‘Together with our partners around the world, our goal is to ensure that sanctioned Russian oligarchs and cyber criminals will not find safe haven.’

Though sanctions bar U.S. citizens from working for or doing business with Malofeyev, the Russian billionaire hired an American television producer to work for him in networks in Russia and Greece and tried to buy a television network in Bulgaria, prosecutors said. 

Jack Hanick, a former CNBC and Fox News employee, was arrested last month for his work as a television producer for Malofeyev. 

During the press conference Monaco accused Malofeyev of ‘flagrantly and repeatedly’ violating sanctions while attempting to start media outlets that would ‘spread pro-Kremlin misinformation.’ 

In discussing the alleged war crimes committed by Russians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, Garland remarked on the U.S.’s role in the post-World War II Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals

Also at the press conference, DOJ officials revealed they disrupted a cybercrime operation launched by a Russian military intelligence agency. 

FBI and Justice Department officials announced the moves as the U.S. separately revealed sanctions against the two adult daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The Justice Department took down a botnet — a network of hijacked computers typically used for malicious activity — that was controlled by the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU. 

The botnet was dismantled before it could cause any damage, said FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Wray said the bureau’s work ‘struck a blow against Russian criminals and the ecosystem of cryptocurrency tumblers, money launderers, malware purveyors and others supporting them.’

He added it also ‘strikes a blow against Russian intelligence, the Russian government.’ 

The intelligence chief said it had been conducted by a GRU team known as ‘Sandworm.’ 

‘The Russian government has shown that it has no qualms about conducting this kind of criminal activity, and they continue to pose an imminent threat,’ Wray warned. 

Wednesday’s announcements came two days after U.S. officials seized a huge yacht in Spain belonging to a Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, with close ties to Russian President Putin.

The yacht was ‘searched’ by Spanish authorities as well as members of the FBI and Homeland Security Department, Monaco said.  

The Justice Department in the past year has taken aim against Russia-based cybercrime, recovering in June most of a multimillion-dollar ransom that Colonial Pipeline paid to hackers after a ransomware attack that halted operations. And the department announced charges last fall against two suspected ransomware operators.

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