Russian money flows through U.S. real estate


As President Joe Biden vows to punish Russia with financial sanctions by seizing yachts, mansions and other assets, members of the real estate community and lawmakers are skeptical about how successful he’ll be at getting access to the money Russians have been pouring into real estate for decades. From Sunny Isles, Florida, to Cleveland and high rises in Manhattan, post-Soviet oligarchs’ money has poured into big cities and the heartland in recent decades with little recourse.

That’s because there is very little the government can do to find out who owns what real estate in the U.S., which has become a “destination of choice” for money launderers throughout the world, said Louise Shelley, the director of the transnational crime and corruption center at George Mason University, who has been an expert witness about how Russian money is laundered through real estate. 

At a minimum, from cases reported in the last five years, more than $2.3 billion has been laundered through U.S. real estate, including millions more through other alternative assets, like art, jewelry and yachts, according to a report in August by Global Financial Integrity, a nonprofit group that researches illicit money flows.


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