Republican bill would allow US citizens to seize yachts, planes of Russian oligarchs amid Ukraine invasion

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FIRST ON FOX: Texas Republican Rep. Lance Gooden is expected to roll out a measure Monday that would allow private U.S. citizens to seize yachts, planes or other property belonging to sanctioned Russian citizens amid Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Gooden would do it with legislation requiring President Biden to issue letters of marque and reprisal, an enumerated power of Congress mentioned in Article 1 of the Constitution, which were routinely used during the War of 1812 for Americans to seize property on behalf of the U.S. government, but have not been issued since. 

“Putin and his inner circle still have yachts and planes sitting in harbors and airports all over the world,” Gooden told Fox News Digital. “The United States must use every tool at our disposal to seize them and hold Russia accountable for the disgusting invasion of Ukraine. The oligarchs who enabled this crisis are a good place to start.”

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The letters can also be used in cyberspace, according to Gooden’s office, to authorize non-government U.S. hackers to go after specific state actors. 

Rep. Lance Gooden leaves the Capitol on Sept. 24, 2021. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

But Gooden told Fox News that letters of marque and reprisal have also been cited as a congressional tool to “check” a president who “lacks initiatives to achieve Congress’ objectives on his own.” 

Gooden’s office told Fox News that Biden, at this time, is “not acting swiftly enough to seize the property of Russian oligarchs.” 

The luxury yacht Dilbar, which was delivered to a Russian billionaire in 2016, is moored at the Blohm+Voss shipyard on Oct. 30, 2021, in Hamburg, Germany.
(Christian Charisius/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The Biden administration and U.S. allies announced on Saturday a fresh round of sanctions against Russia that would not only target the banking system, but the physical assets of sanctioned oligarchs – including their yachts and mansions. 

The U.S. and its partners said in a joint statement on Saturday that they’ll form a transatlantic task force to hunt down and freeze the assets of sanctioned individuals and companies within their jurisdictions.

The Standarte yacht moored on the Bolshaya Neva River at Vasilyevsky Island, St. Petersburg, Russia, Aug. 16, 2021.
(Alexander DemianchukTASS via Getty Images)

“We’ll go after their yachts, their luxury apartments, their money and their ability to send their kids to fancy colleges in the West,” a senior administration official said about the new crackdown. 

The commitment came from the U.S., European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Canada as part of their larger announcement to expel certain Russian banks from the SWIFT financial system and to sanction the Russian Central Bank. 

“We’re disarming fortress Russia by taking this action,” the official added.

Super yacht Dilbar, owned by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov, departed the Port of Southampton in the United Kingdom, in June 2021.
(Peter Titmuss/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The group will also target the sale of so-called “golden passports” that let wealthy Russians connected to their government become citizens and gain access to Western financial systems.

Fox News’ Marisa Schultz contributed to this report. 

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