LONDON: Britain is to make it easier to penalise Russian oligarchs and align those sanctions with the European Union and the US over the invasion of Ukraine, the government said on Saturday.
The UK has been criticised for not doing enough to clamp down on oligarchs’ ill-gotten gains which are frequently invested in luxury real estate in London, a popular destination.
Amendments will be introduced to the Economic Crimes bill, which the government now wants to be passed by the lower House of Commons on Monday, “to crack down on corrupt elites and ramp up pressure on (President Vladimir) Putin’s regime”, a statement said.
Moscow in turn vowed retaliatory measures against “the sanctions hysteria in which London has played one of the leading roles, if not the main one”.
British Economic Secretary to the Treasury John Glen said Saturday that the UK amendments will “allow us to move harder and faster” with sanctions.
“What we’re trying to do is make it more straightforward to get a legal basis to move on these individuals. We believe that these changes will make that difference,” Glen told BBC radio.
“We need to look at how we can expedite these decisions more swiftly.”
The amendments “will allow the UK to align more rapidly with the individual designations imposed by our allies such as the US, Canada and the EU via an urgent designation procedure,” the government said after criticism that sanctions lists were not always aligned.
They will also reduce the deadline for foreign companies to register their beneficial owners from 18 months to six months, to “help crack down on money laundering through UK property”.
The government said the bill would be “expedited” through the Commons on Monday with a view to it becoming law “as soon as possible”.
The UK has already passed a swathe of sanctions against Russian oligarchs, banks and businesses, as well as banning Russian aircraft and vessels over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The British sanctions regime “leaves us no choice but to take retaliatory proportional harsh measures,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told journalists on Saturday.