Boris Johnson urged to speed up UK sanctions on wealthy Russians

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been accused of delaying sanctioning Russian billionaires after the UK fell behind the United States and the European Union in targeting individuals with links to Vladimir Putin.

In parliament, opposition Labor Party leader Keir Starmer asked why Igor Shuvalov, Putin’s former deputy prime minister, was not on Britain’s sanctions list when he was on the government’s. ‘European Union.

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Shuvalov has “two apartments, less than a five-minute walk from the Parliament. They are worth more than 11 million pounds ($15 million),” Starmer told lawmakers on Wednesday. “When will the Prime Minister fix this?”

The UK has so far imposed sanctions on nine of the wealthiest Russians since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last week, as well as a wider list of more than 100 named individuals and entities. But there is frustration among MPs of all political stripes that more have not been targeted. Starmer also accused the government of dragging its feet on a register of foreign owners of property in the UK.

Johnson said the UK should “be proud of what we have already done” and will continue to “tighten the noose on Putin’s regime”. The government will release a full list of people associated with the Russian leader and his government, he said.

Speaking to reporters later, Johnson’s spokesman Max Blain said the UK had gone further than other governments in targeting Russian banks and companies and that sanctions required “evidence required “.

“Legal Reasons”

Yet even Tory MPs are frustrated, accusing the Foreign Office of not being prepared for sanctions. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the sanction is “not a competition” with other nations. On Tuesday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said there were “legal reasons” for the time taken.

Asked by Starmer why he did not impose sanctions on Roman Abramovich, a Russian billionaire who owns several properties in the UK as well as Chelsea football club, Johnson said he was not “appropriate” to comment on individuals.

Abramovich is selling his London properties, according to Labor MP Chris Bryant, and a Swiss billionaire. A representative for Abramovich did not immediately respond to a Bloomberg request for comment on the report.

UK plans new law to tackle foreign money laundering

Johnson unveiled an economic crime bill this week which includes the creation of a register of foreign owners of property in the UK.

Jet lag

While Starmer told the Prime Minister his party supported the measure, he also questioned why it wouldn’t come into effect until a year and a half after the Bill came into force – meaning that even if it is accelerated by Parliament, the register will not be enforced until at least the end of 2023.

“Why are we giving Putin’s cronies 18 months to quietly launder their money out of the UK property market and into another safe haven?” Starmer asked.

The register was first proposed in 2016 by then-Prime Minister David Cameron, but even though a bill was published two years later, procrastination by successive Conservative governments has raised concerns among citizens. opposition parties and grassroots Tories about the persistence of a London “laundry” used to clean up illicit wealth.

The UK’s National Crime Agency estimates that money laundering costs Britain £100 billion a year.

(Updates with the ninth person sanctioned fourth paragraph and in the table)

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Edward L. Robinett