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Rally in Sioux Falls urges freezing of Russian assets

People gathered in solidarity for Ukraine at a rally Friday afternoon in downtown Sioux Falls. They also called on lawmakers to freeze any Russian assets held in the state.

This comes after the Pandora Papers revealed the amount of money held in South Dakota trusts quadrupled over the past decade to nearly $400 billion, with clients from more than 54 countries.

Cathy Bretchelsbauer, of Sioux Falls, attended the rally. She said identifying and freezing any Russian money in South Dakota trusts is a way for legislators to honor the Pledge of Allegiance.

“This is an opportunity for them to show their allegiance to our country, which is trying to do some good in the world by cooperating with the call to freeze the assets of Putin and his friends," she said. "We have secretive trusts here, and the Legislature needs to do something to make sure our state is not complicit in hiding assets.”

Brechtelsbauer said the problem with trusts is secrecy.

“One problem with our system is we don’t know if Putin has assets here," she said. "We don’t know if he and his friends are storing money here, because we have this system of secretive trusts."

Two Ukrainian immigrants spoke at the event. Both called for action from legislators and the people of South Dakota to do what they can to support Ukraine against the invasion by Russia.

There is currently no publicly available evidence of Russian assets held in South Dakota trusts. But Regina Brunz, a Ukrainian who came to South Dakota in 1990, said she suspects that could be happening.

“I’ve always been proud of being a South Dakotan, but I feel angry that Russian elites or Russian wealthy are profiting off our loss, and this is not the South Dakota I know, because this does not represent South Dakotans," Brunz said. "These laws that allow Putin and his wealthy elite to profit in the midst of their unjust devouring of innocent lives of mothers, children, sisters — this does not represent South Dakota.”

There's one week left in South Dakota's annual legislative session, and there's no pending legislation dealing with trusts or the revelations in the Pandora Papers.

Jordyn is a videographer with SDPB.
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