Playing catch-up on sanctions against the oligarchs

Russian billionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich in 2011. Photo...


Russian billionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich in 2011.


Photo:

Andrew Winning/REUTERS

The European Union leads the world in sanctions against the Kremlin oligarchs, and even the UK is finally catching up. What’s taking the Biden administration so long?

Thursday, UK announcement sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs, he estimates, collectively amount to some £15 billion, and the next day he imposed restrictions imposed on 386 members of the Russian Duma.

Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea football club, will now have “his assets frozen, a ban on transactions with British individuals and companies, a travel ban and transport sanctions imposed”, the British government has announced. Other members of Mr Putin’s inner circle will face asset freezes and travel bans, although Mr Abramovich is the only targeted oligarch who does not already face restrictions from states US or EU.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss

admitted Monday that the UK’s response was “heavy and slower”. But she added that if Parliament’s Economic Crimes Bill soon becomes law, the government will quickly impose penalties on “hundreds of individuals”. Better late than never. London is particularly important given its history as a destination for wealthy Russians storing ill-gotten wealth abroad.

Wednesday Brussels imposed sanctions against 14 oligarchs and 146 legislators. This brought the EU total to more than 900 people and entities linked to the recent invasion. Yet many of Putin’s cronies and family members remain free to live and store money in the EU.

President Biden made a promising show of action against the oligarchs in his State of the Union address, but the United States has been slow to act. On Friday evening, the Treasury finally added three more people close to the Kremlin to the sanctions list, along with a dozen members of the Russian Duma and the board of directors of VTB Bank. The State Department has targeted a dozen others, plus AO ABR Management, an investment adviser to Russian elites.

If the Treasury and State want more, and they should, a target list is made up of every individual on the Navalny 35. This is the group Russian elites “who play a key role in complicity with Putin”, according to the anti-corruption organization of imprisoned dissident Alexei Navalny.

While many have been targeted by at least one of the US, UK or EU, few have seen restrictions from all. Different legal regimes make this difficult – and Western governments will need to ensure their cases against Mr Putin’s coterie are watertight – but it is not an insurmountable task.

The United States can also do more to clean up at home by investigating Mr. Putin’s American Catalysts. Last week, the Department of Justice announcement the creation of a working group “dedicated to the application of sweeping sanctions, export restrictions and economic countermeasures” against Russia. Lawyers and accountants who get rich helping Russians manage dirty money abroad have been warned.

The goal is not to seize this wealth because it feels good. The fact is that some Russian political and business elites got rich by supporting Mr. Putin’s corrupt system. They shouldn’t have the head of the democratic world that their Kremlin boss is threatening with nuclear weapons as he murders Ukrainian civilians.

In 2013, it took three months for one million refugees to leave Syria. In ten days, nearly 1.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine, and the UN estimates that number could reach four million. Images: AFP/Getty Images Composition: Mark Kelly

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Newsrust - US Top News: Playing catch-up on sanctions against the oligarchs
Playing catch-up on sanctions against the oligarchs
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