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Oligarchs Alisher Usmanov And Igor Shuvalov Added To UK Sanctions List

3 min read

Billionaire Everton Football Club sponsor Alisher Usmanov and Russian politician Igor Shuvalov have been added to the list of oligarchs being sanctioned by the UK government.

The new sanctions come as Downing Street earlier today said it does not recognise reports that government is being held back from imposing sanctions on oligarchs due to legal difficulties.

No.10's defence of Britain’s economic response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine comes amid growing pressure from MPs for government to speed up its punishment of billionaires with links to the Kremlin. 

This morning The Times reported that the Foreign Office and National Crime Agency has been struggling to prove “reasonable grounds” for legally sanctioning individuals with alleged ties to Putin, including the owner of Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich.

However, Downing Street pushed back on the report in a press conference on Thursday morning. 

“We've introduced the largest ever package of economic sanctions ever placed on a G20 country (and) we've gone further and faster than we ever had before,” a spokesperson for No.10 said.

“We do have laws that we need to abide by when it comes to how we apply these sanctions and we are following them,” he added.

“We keep under constant review whether or not we can do more, to allow us to go even faster.”

Alongside voicing frustration at the pace of Britain’s sanction package rollout, MPs have raised concerns about a “loophole” that has granted individuals and companies 30 days to “wind down any transactions” they have with the Russian state-owned bank VTB.

VTB, Russia’s second largest bank, is among nine financial institutions to have been sanctioned by government.

A Downing Street spokesperson said that "if you didn't allow any additional time” for individuals to sever ties with the bank, this “would effectively cause major issues for UK companies”.

“Obviously we’re not trying to place any additional burden on them and so it's a rational way of seeking to avoid that,” the spokesperson added. 

Despite calls from across the Commons, so far no seizures of assets belonging to oligarchs in Britain have been confirmed. 

No.10 says it is still in the process of completing the necessary requisite work to ensure the legal bar for seizing assets has been met. However, MPs are growing increasingly impatient. 

A number of parliamentarians, including Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds, have tabled amendments to the Economic Crime Bill, which is due to be put to the Commons on Monday next week, designed to give ministers to ability to take swifter action against oligarchs through sanctions.

Ex-Cabinet minister David Davis told PoliticsHome that beefing up the bill could give government the power to quickly freeze assets temporarily, warning that oligarchs are currently “seeking to escape” sanctions.

“We need to do this,” Davis told PoliticsHome.

“It may be slightly unfair on the innocent oligarchs but in order to make sure this works, we have to say to all of them: ‘you can’t move major quantity liquid assets out of the country, and you can’t sell your major assets’.”

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey told PoliticsHome: "Liz Truss has told us for weeks that Putin's cronies would have 'nowhere to hide' from the UK's sanctions.

“It is deeply worrying to hear that her department is potentially incapable of applying sanctions to Kremlin-linked oligarchs. 

“Our allies have been able to - we have no excuse. We're letting Putin's cronies get away with it once again."

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