UK considers instant asset freeze of Russians facing sanctions


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(Bloomberg) – Russian oligarchs set to be sanctioned by the UK government could have their assets frozen, even before the measures are officially introduced, under a plan tabled by UK lawmakers.

The measure, proposed by former minister David Davis, could be voted on Monday in the House of Commons. It reflects fears that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was too slow to strike at wealthy oligarchs in London to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his invasion of Ukraine. Johnson has also been criticized for giving potential targets too much time to move their assets overseas before restrictions are imposed.


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The British government has already reacted to pressure to tackle Russian money laundering in response to the invasion of Ukraine, and will speed up legislation on Monday that requires foreign owners of British property to register their interests. He also proposed new powers to punish more quickly those who have already been punished by British allies such as the European Union, the United States and Canada.

Read more: Johnson urged to speed up UK sanctions on wealthy Russians (2)

The Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately comment on whether it supported Davis’ proposal.

The UK has fallen behind the US and EU in sanctioning individual Russians and has attributed the delay to the need to build strong legal cases to prevent restrictions from being overturned by the courts. Britain has sanctioned 11 wealthy Russians – as well as Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – since the invasion.


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“We do these things with care,” UK Justice Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News on Sunday. “Nothing would be a bigger public relations blow for Putin than if we imposed sanctions on someone and then found out they were successfully appealed.”

Read more: London’s billionaires’ playground challenged by the reality of war (1)

time limit

A government amendment to the legislation on Monday will give people six months to comply with its new register to identify ultimate foreign owners of UK property. The opposition Labor Party is pushing for a 28-day notice period, arguing that leaving it too long gives people too much time to move their assets overseas.

“People will just sell their homes and their belongings if they think they are going to be seized,” Labor leader Keir Starmer told the BBC on Sunday, pushing for the 28-day period. “Make it a really effective sanction so that we can put maximum pressure on Russia.”


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Ministers are keen to strike the right balance between targeting foreign criminals and entrapping legitimate, law-abiding owners, according to a person familiar with the matter. Under the legislation, failure to meet the registration deadline is an offense that could subject owners to imprisonment or a fine.

Over the weekend, Johnson outlined a six-point plan for Ukraine, calling on other nations to help mobilize a humanitarian effort and help Ukraine defend itself. He is due to meet the leaders of Canada and the Netherlands on Monday and will host the leaders of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic on Tuesday, countries facing a growing refugee crisis as people flee the Ukraine.

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