Germany moves to seize $789 million in frozen Russian account over suspected violation of Ukraine embargo

Germany’s federal prosecutor has filed a motion for asset forfeiture concerning more than $789 millionof frozen Russian money.

The prosecutor’s office said Wednesday that the aim of the motion, which was filed on July 7, is to seize the money deposited by a Russian financial institution in a Frankfurt bank account because of a suspected attempt to violate embargo regulations, which is criminalized under the German Foreign Trade and Payments Act.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, the European Union has imposed various sanctions and restrictions on Russia. The measures have targeted the energy sector, banks, companies and markets, and made more than 1,000 Russian officials subject to asset freezes and travel bans.

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According to a report on news site Spiegel Online, the federal prosecutor’s office wants the frozen funds to go into state coffers.

Peter Frank, Federal Public Prosecutor General, delivers a statement in Karlsruhe, Germany on Dec. 7, 2022. Frank has filed a motion for asset forfeiture concerning more than $789 million of frozen Russian money.  (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)

“What applies to unscrupulous rulers personally also applies to the assets of their power apparatus: we will not allow Russian funds used to finance the illegal war of aggression against Ukraine to be held unchallenged in German accounts,” Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said.

In June 2022, the Council of the European Union listed the Russian financial institution, which wasn’t explicitly named in the prosecutor’s statement, in the so-called Russia Embargo Order. As a consequence, any assets of the entity deposited with European financial institutions could no longer be subject to transactions, but were “frozen.”

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Shortly after the listing, unknown individuals acting on behalf of the Russian financial institution attempted to deduct more than 720 million euros from its account at a bank in Frankfurt, but the bank didn’t execute the electronic transfer order, the prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe said.

The prosecutor’s motion was filed before the state security chamber of the higher regional court in Frankfurt.

The German customs criminal investigation office, or Zollkriminalamt, was tasked with investigations.

“Independent confiscation is being requested as it is currently impossible to prosecute specific individuals for the offence at issue,” the prosecutor’s office wrote.

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