Thomas Massie Warns About the Dangers of Confiscating Private Property

Crisis is the lifeblood of government growth. Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie understands this very well. 

In reference to the seizure of a Russian oligarch’s yacht early this month, Massie tweeted, “This is what happens when you don’t give 10% to the big guy.”

On April 4, 2022, Spanish law enforcement seized the Motor Yacht (M/Y) Tango, a 255-foot luxury yacht that Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg owns.

Spanish authorities carried this out in accordance with a request from the United States Department of Justice for assistance following the issuance of a seizure warrant. This warrant was filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia and it alleges that the Tango was subject to forfeiture based on the violation of US bank fraud, money laundering, and sanction statutes. 

In addition, the seizure warrants that the US District Court for the District of Columbia obtained target roughly $625,000 connected with the sanctioned parties held at 9 financial institutions in the US. These seizures were triggered by the sanctions violations committed by several Russians who were previously sanctioned. 

Per the documents filed in this case, the US government’s investigation made the allegation that Vekselberg purchased the Tango in 2011 and has continuously owned it since that time. On top of that, the investigation alleges that Vekselberg used shell companies to conceal his interest in the Tango to avoid bank regulators snooping into the US dollar transactions connected to this purchase. 

Following the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctioning of Vekselberg on April 6, 2018, the warrant accused Vekselberg and his work associates of continuously making US dollar payments through US banks for the support and upkeep of the Tango and its owners. This included a payment for a December 2020 stay at a luxury water villa resort in the Maldives and the yacht’s mooring fees. Vekselberg had an interest in these payments, which required him to obtain a license from the Treasury Department — something Vekselberg did not do. 

“Today marks our taskforce’s first seizure of an asset belonging to a sanctioned individual with close ties to the Russian regime. It will not be the last,” stated Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Together, with our international partners, we will do everything possible to hold accountable any individual whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue its unjust war.”

“Today’s action makes clear that corrupt Russian oligarchs cannot evade sanctions to live a life of luxury as innocent Ukrainians are suffering,” remarked Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “Today the Department of Justice delivers on our commitment to hold accountable those whose criminal activity strengthens the Russian government as it continues to wage its unjust war in Ukraine. That commitment is one we are not finished honoring.”

“Today we announce another example of the FBI using our worldwide presence and partnerships, as well as our expertise and experience, to track and seize illicit money and assets, to counter threats to our safety and national security,” commented FBI Director Christopher Wray. “We will continue to use every lawful tool to go after designated Russian oligarchs’ assets – however and wherever they hide them.”

The Justice Department’s Task Force KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force focused on enforcing broad sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeasures that the US government has imposed, helped facilitate this seizure as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While many people are foaming at the mouth over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, this does not justify the seizure of private property of individuals who are suspected to be close to the Russian regime. In fact, journalists like Anatol Lieven make the case that the real power elites in Russia are in the state’s national security apparatus.These facts don’t register with the American journalist class.

Moments of geopolitical crisis tend to be ones where the state consolidates its power by attacking private property and individual liberties. The way the US and its partners in the collective West are behaving further showcases that. 

Massie is correct in pointing out the dangers of such power grabs. Other Republican leaders, who claim to be pro-free market should also pick up on this and not cheer on these private property seizures.