If we’re going to talk about imposing crippling sanctions against Russia as an effective nonlethal response to Vladimir Putin’s military invasion of Ukraine, let’s not forget South Florida.
South Florida is awash with the flight capital of Russian oligarchs, people who’ve received Putin’s blessing to loot their country and then keep their ill-gotten riches tucked safely away in the form of American real estate.
With a goal of inflicting some economic pain on Putin and his privileged circle of thieves, it would be a shame not to deal with those who are consolidating their loot right under our noses.
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Russian connection in Sunny Isles Beach
The Miami-Dade coastal town of Sunny Isles Beach alone could generate the kind of economic sanctions that would surely reverberate back in Moscow, exacting the kind of price that just might lead to a reappraisal of Putin’s military adventurism.
The Miami Herald reported six years ago that dozens of Sunny Isles Beach condos had been purchased by Russians involved in shady enterprises.
That was the year when millions of papers from Mossack Fonseca, the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, were leaked in what became known as The Panama Papers. They showed a complex web of $2 billion in secret offshore deals through intermediaries that were tied to Putin.
A year later, Reuters identified at least 63 Russians who had spent nearly $100 million buying condos in the six Trump-branded high-rise condos in Sunny Isles Beach.
I’ll bet a lot of that money comes from dirty sources, considering that in Trump’s seven luxury condo buildings in Miami-Dade – six of which are in Sunny Isles Beach – there were 703 units purchased by limited liability companies that hide the names of the actual buyers.
It’s a target-rich environment of people who’ve amassed fortunes and don’t want anybody to know about it. And many of them are Russian.
Sounds like a good place to explore for sanctions.
Remember Igor Fruman and Lev Parnes, the two Rudy Giuliani operatives that were supposed to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to lie that his government was investigating then-candidate Joe Biden?
Igor and Lev, dirty money experts
Igor and Lev used to live in Sunny Isles before they ended getting tangled up with Giuliani and charged with funneling nearly $700,000 in illegal foreign donations to Republican candidates. The list of recipients included the campaigns of Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, both who returned the donations after they were publicly revealed.
Igor and Lev had a pipeline of dirty Russian cash here in South Florida. I’ll bet they’ll know which unit owners in Trump buildings to sanction.
And who knows, maybe former President Donald Trump himself will even help in identifying all the Russian crooks who laundered their money through his businesses.
After all, I hear Trump loves America. So much so, he sometimes engages in public displays of flag hugging.
So I’m guessing he’ll be more than happy to participate in some strategic asset forfeiture of Russian kleptocrats.
OK. Maybe that’s wishful thinking.
Maybe we’ll have to take the nonmilitary response to Russia to an even more personal level here in South Florida.
The maternity sanction of last resort
It turns out that South Florida is a favorite destination for wealthy pregnant Russian women to visit when it’s time to give birth.
Hundreds of upper-class Russian women pay $20,000 to $50,000 to brokers, who book trips from Moscow to Miami, where they enjoy a luxury beachfront vacation that culminates with the birth of their child, a little American citizen under the “birthright citizenship” clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The baby, who becomes the holder of a U.S. passport, can at the age of 21 petition to have his or her Russian parents get “green cards,” making them lawful permanent residents of the U.S.
Maybe if enough Russians who benefit from the golden crumbs of Putin’s kleptocracy got the message that rolling tanks into Ukraine would have some personal costs for them to pay, the trajectory of war could take a less lethal path.
We have the keys for making that happen right here in Florida.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: South Florida sanctions one way to punish Russia for Ukraine invasion