Britain will not freeze Yanukovych's Ukrainian assets ‘until EU agrees’
The Government said tonight it would not move to freeze any of the UK assets of the Yanukovych regime until its European Union partners all agreed, despite the fact that EU member Austria, together with Switzerland and Lichtenstein, took action yesterday.
Analysis of Ukrainian assets show that Britain is a key transit point for wealth held by those close to the former president, cropping up repeatedly in investigations into their business activities.
However, a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said: “We are still working with our EU partners on this. The details are still under consideration.”
Britain said it would only work through the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, which this week said it would consider freezing the assets of those suspected of human rights abuses.
However, Austria decided to act sooner, declaring it had frozen the local bank accounts of 18 Ukrainians suspected of corruption, as well as human rights abuses. Like the UK, Austria has become a regular transit point for Ukrainian assets.
The Austrian Foreign Minister, Sebastian Kurz, described it as a “precautionary measure” while the EU discussed what to do. Lichtenstein followed suit, also freezing 18 people’s accounts but not naming them.
Switzerland published a list of 20 individuals sanctioned, including Viktor Yanukovych and his son Oleksandr. His wealthy allies, the Klyuyev brothers, one of whom was reportedly shot while fleeing with Viktor Yanukovych last week, were also on the list.
Geneva’s chief prosecutor, Yves Bertossa, meanwhile said his investigators had raided a business owned by Oleksandr Yanukovych as part of an investigation into “aggravated money laundering”. Documents were seized.
The Swiss government ordered its financial institutions to freeze assets belonging to the former president and his associates to “prevent any risk of misappropriation of Ukranian government property”. It has not indicated how much money might be involved.
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