IRS Criminal-fighting division is given new tasks in the course of Ukraine conflict
The criminal-fighting arm of the IRS that tracks financial crimes and seeks out expensive properties belonging to sanctions-affected Russian elites, found greater than $32 billion worth of funds in the last fiscal year that could be confiscated The agency released the information on Thursday.
Jim Lee, chief of IRS Criminal Investigation, said it’s the equivalent of a “huge” amount that’s three times the amount that was discovered in prior years. In addition, the amount confiscated from stolen cryptocurrency more than $7 billion more than doubled from the year before, the IRS chief said.
The annual report of the division reveals the ways they have added more responsibilities such as the investigation of sanctions on Russian Oligarchs to its tasks in the midst of Russia engaging in war against Ukraine.
It has initiated 20 criminal investigations of sanctioned persons since joining the Justice Department’s task team Klepto Capture in March. The task force is focusing on Russian Oligarchs and other individuals who are evading sanctions.
Lee noted that the increased amount of cash seized, as well as the change in the way criminals are convicted are posing an obstacle to the ununderstood agency that is part of Treasury.
“As an organization,” Lee said, “we are agile and are able to change positions quickly.”
The division has been under greater scrutiny in recent times, particularly during the time during the time Congress was discussing an Inflation Reduction Act, which grants the IRS $80 billion more funds. Republicans have confused the department’s criminal investigation agents with unarmed IRS auditors, who look over financial records in the name of the IRS tax collector.
These comparisons are misleading and inaccurate. “Not just is it completely insensitive, but it’s also dangerous,” Lee said.
“Much of the performance that is enjoyed by CI special agents is due to an extensive and aggressive international program that has 11 foreign posts as well as membership of various International task forces,” the annual report says. Agents are part of their counterparts in the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement task force and other organizations.
In addition to the seizures that were made this calendar year, the agency participated during the investigative process that culminated in Feb. arrests of Ilya Lichtenstein as well as Heather Morgan for an alleged conspiracy to launder cryptocurrency . This was stolen in the hack in 2016 of virtual cryptocurrency exchange Bitfinex estimated at around $4.5 billion. This was the biggest single financial theft in the history of the government.
In august, Alexander Vinnik, a Russian citizen, and a suspected operator of the infamous cryptocurrency exchange BTC-e was accused in California with running an online criminal and online money laundering company, which is believed to have laundered over $4 billion.
“If you find yourself caught in the crossfire from one of the IRS CI special agents,” Lee said, “it’s very likely that you’ll end up in jail.”