Seizing illicit wealth is easy to announce, hard to achieve

Report reveals that Canada and its G7 peers don't have the resources to crackdown on Russian oligarchs

Seizing illicit wealth is easy to announce, hard to achieve
Steve Randall

When Russia first invaded Ukraine earlier this year, western nations were quick to announce economic sanctions on Putin’s wealthiest supporters.

But while announcements from Canada and its peers in the G7 nations may sound like tough action, their ability to actually track and seize the illicit wealth of Russian oligarchs is limited.

That’s according to a new report from Transparency International (TI) which acknowledges that the members of the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) Task Force, convened in March, have managed some high-profile yacht seizures, the overall task is proving hard.

TI’s analysis focuses on six of the G7 nations - Canada, US, UK, France, Germany, and Italy - plus Australia and the Netherlands, which have financial intelligence units working collaboratively on suspect assets from company shares to hedge funds and private jets to lavish properties in the West.

The report found that even with this level of collaboration, nations lack resources, information, and the legal powers to crack down on corrupt wealth. They may even face legal challenges to their action.

20 year wait

TI highlights a report to the G8 in 2004 which called on nations to take steps to make it easier to trace criminal assets.

Almost 20 years later, those whose wealth comes from illegal means are still able to hide it from authorities.

“The G7 must stop dragging their feet and step up. The same gaps that allowed kleptocrats to amass and hide their vast illicit wealth are now preventing even the most willing authorities from finding it. They need to match their ambitious rhetoric of holding Russian elites accountable with real, hard work to fix the broken systems,” commented Maíra Martini, corrupt money flows expert at Transparency International.