Boris Johnson’s government set to unveil further Russian sanctions

Action come as Economic Crime Bill clears all parliamentary hurdles

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 15 March 2022 01:24 GMT
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(EPA)

Boris Johnson’s government is poised to impose further sanctions against Russian oligarchs and organisations linked to Vladimir Putin as MPs fast-track key legislation.

It comes as the long-awaited Economic Crime Bill — designed to tackle “dirty money” in Britain, according to ministers — cleared its parliamentary hurdles on Monday evening.

With the Bill having received Royal Assent, the government can now announce a raft of new sanctions, targeting those close to the Russian president as the Kremlin continues to wage war on Ukraine.

The Bill — rushed through the Commons in the wake of the invasion — gives ministers the powers to mirror sanctions already imposed by the European Union and the United States.

Speaking at the weekend, the prime minister insisted the legislation would enable the government to go “harder and faster” on sanctions.

The latest tranche of sanctions were announced on Friday against 386 members of the Russian parliament who voted in favour of recognising the independence of Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine.

The measures ban those members of the State Duma listed from travelling to the UK and accessing assets after the vote was used by Putin as a pretext for the invasion of Ukraine.

In total, 18 oligarchs have also been sanctioned by the UK government since the invasion began 19 days ago.

The Economic Crime Bill is also aimed at imposing greater transparency over oligarchs’ UK real estate through a new register requiring overseas companies to reveal the name of the “beneficial owner” of each property.

This map shows the extent of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
This map shows the extent of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Press Association Images)

However, owners have been given a six-month implementation period, prompting fears that oligarchs will sufficient time to restructure their assets — or sell them off — before they can be frozen under any new government sanctions.

Campaigners also told The Independent this weekend there were still “significant loopholes” in the legislation, with oligarchs able to use shell companies in the UK’s Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories (CDOTs) — known to be centres of financial secrecy — to dodge the British authorities.

Speaking in the Lords on Monday evening in an attempt to address the concerns of peers, business minister Lord Callanan said: “This will be almost the first register of its kind in the world.

“We should accept that we are leading on this and I completely accept that we may not have everything perfect.”

He later added: “Just to re-emphasise the point again, we will be perfectly willing to revisit these measures if it transpires we haven’t got everything quite right.”

However, Labour peer Lord Eatwell corrected one of the minister’s claims, saying: “I can think of four registers of this ilk which exist already.”

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