IRS Has Opened 20 Russia Sanctions-Related Criminal Probes

The agency’s criminal investigation division, part of Task Force KleptoCapture, said it had identified nearly 50 individuals and entities for possible enforcement actions

The IRS’s criminal investigation division expects to significantly increase its number of special agents, the division’s chief said.

Photo: Susan Walsh/Associated Press

The Internal Revenue Service has opened 20 criminal investigations in its crackdown on the evasion of sanctions that the U.S. imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an official said.

The law-enforcement unit at the tax-collection agency opened the probes as part of its work with Task Force KleptoCapture and continues to develop new leads, Guy Ficco, the criminal investigation division’s deputy chief, said at a press conference Thursday.

The IRS has taken a leading role in the task force, but the 20 investigations cited aren’t the total number of probes by all task force members, Mr. Ficco said.

The agency in an annual report said it had identified nearly 50 possible individuals and entities for possible sanctions enforcement actions as of Sept. 30.

KleptoCapture, a multiagency task force established in March, works to enforce a sweeping set of sanctions and export controls that the U.S. and its allies put in place in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

The task force, which is headed by the U.S. Justice Department, includes agents from a half-dozen federal law-enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Marshals Service, Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security and the Postal Inspection Service.

An oil refinery in Sicily, owned by Russia’s second largest oil and gas giant Lukoil, acts as a pass-through for Russian crude, which ultimately makes its way to the U.S. as gasoline and other refined oil products. Photo Illustration: Laura Kammermann

Mr. Ficco said the IRS has used a variety of methods to try to develop new leads for sanctions violators, including data analytics, intelligence sharing with international partners and reviewing suspicious activity reports filed by financial institutions. The division partners particularly closely with authorities in the U.K., Canada, Australia and the Netherlands.

The IRS’s criminal investigation division expects to significantly increase its number of special agents, said division chief Jim Lee. About 91% of IRS criminal investigation cases referred to prosecutors lead to convictions, Mr. Lee said. “If you violate the law and end up in the crosshairs of an IRS-CI special agent, you are likely going to jail,” he said.

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