Manhattan elected officials pushed on Sunday morning for more transparency and sanctions against Russian oligarchs tied to Vladimir Putin, calling on the government to shed light on shell companies allowing them to park their wealth in high-end Manhattan real estate while supporting the war in Ukraine.
“These oligarchs who have stolen money from the Russian people are propping up Putin in the meantime,” said state Senator Brad Hoylman. “That money needs to be exposed and returned rather than wage a war against the Ukrainian people.”
The pols spoke out at Billionaire’s Row on West 57th Street against the lax regulations allowing the Kremlin-connected fat cats to hide their money behind anonymous so-called limited liability companies (LLCs).
Hoylman, who dubbed the skinny towers along the Midtown block “secretive security deposits in the sky,” said it requires more information to set up an LLC than to get a New York Public Library card.
Congressmember Carolyn Maloney said she is pushing the U.S. Treasury Department to speed up implementation of her Corporate Transparency Act, passed in Washington as part of a defense spending bill last year, which creates a federal registry with the names of true owners of domestic and foreign shell companies doing business in the country.
“Unfortunately the U.S. is one of the easiest places in the world to set up anonymous shell companies,” Maloney said. “The same oligarchs that are promoting and benefiting from this crisis can be using their own corporate loopholes to fund their lavish lifestyles.”
A similar bill at the State Capitol in Albany introduced by Hoylman in the state Senate and Brooklyn Assemblymember Emily Gallagher in the Assembly on March 1 would require LLCs disclose their beneficiaries to the New York Department of State and make the agency create a database so that people can look up what else the companies own.
Hoylman said that Billionaire’s Row is home to an estimated $1 billion in real estate bought through LLCs that provide anonymity to Russian oligarchs.
The Treasury should put the oligarchs on its sanctions list, demanded Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, following measures in other countries like the United Kingdom.
“There are oligarchs now who can’t own real estate in London but who are still to keep their properties here,” Levine said. “That then sets off a chain of events in which these properties can be seized, padlocked — eventually — and it gives local law enforcement the ability to act and step in, if necessary.”
“They have chosen New York in part because they can buy obscurity here. This has to end. We need to hold every single person who is implicated in the actions of the Putin regime accountable,” the beep added.