Oligarchs targeted as Abramovich hands over Chelsea
Foreign secretary Liz Truss will sanction a hit-list of Russian oligarchs as the UK government cranks up measures in response to President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ms Truss said there will be “nowhere left to hide” for the super-rich linked to Mr Putin’s regime, while Michael Gove , the Housing Secretary is said to drawing up plans akin to compulsory purchase orders that would strip certain individuals of their properties.
The latest moves may have influenced the decision of Roman Abramovich to relinquish control of Chelsea football club. While he will remain the London club’s owner he said he would hand the “stewardship and care” of the club to the trustees of its charitable foundation.
The 55-year-old, who took control of the Premier League club in 2003, was born in the Soviet Union but has Russian, Israeli and Portuguese citizenship. It was not clear why he decided to hand it over, though there is growing belief that he felt a need to take defensive action once Ms Truss indicated that would “make it deeply painful for the oligarchs that support the Putin regime.”
Mr Abramovich, who is said to have built a $13 billion fortune in in oil and aluminium after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, played down his ties to the Putin regime, but he has been seen in his company. He has not had a British visa since 2018 when a renewal application failed to be processed and was withdrawn.
Labour MP Chris Bryant last week raised questions around Mr Abramovich in the House of Commons, saying the government should be looking at “seizing some of his assets,” including a home he claimed to be worth £152 million.
A UK government source has said there were no immediate plans to sanction Mr Abramovich who is also a major shareholder in the steelmaker Evraz whose shares fell 30% on Thursday before recovering some of its lost value on Friday on the back of soaring profits.
Ms Truss said: “Nothing is off the table in terms of who or what we are targeting. We are very clear about that — we are very prepared to do what it takes.”
Mr Gove is looking to new powers that could see those hit by sanctions forced to forfeit their properties, which include some of the highest valued homes in the UK.
Legislation could be rushed through as early as next week, reports The Sunday Times. A senior government source said the seized property could be used to house Ukrainian refugees.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, is looking to pursue and seize the assets of oligarchs by beefing up the powers of the crime agencies.
David Lammy, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, said: “Vladimir Putin’s rogue regime must face the toughest possible sanctions as a consequence of its illegal invasion of Ukraine.
“Labour strongly welcomes the news that the EU and US have agreed to disconnect some Russian banks from Swift.
“The UK government should come forward with further sanctions to effectively cut off the Russian state from our economic system.”