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26 Feb, 2024 13:22

Mayor of London wants assets of Russian ‘oligarchs’ seized

Sadiq Khan urged the UK government to channel proceeds from confiscations toward funding accommodation for Ukrainian refugees
Mayor of London wants assets of Russian ‘oligarchs’ seized

The UK government ought to seize property owned by Russian ‘oligarchs’ in the country and use the money to fund housing for Ukrainian refugees, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has argued. The official estimated that the sale of these assets could potentially generate over £1.1 billion ($1.4 bn).

The EU, US and other Western countries froze approximately $300 billion of Russian central bank assets shortly after Russia launched its military operation against Ukraine in February 2022. Of that sum, some £26 billion ($32.1 bn) of Moscow’s sovereign funds is being kept by the UK, the Bank of Russia has estimated. Individuals who have found themselves on London’s sanctions list have also seen their property rights restricted by British authorities.

While there have been multiple calls to direct the money toward the reconstruction of Ukraine, the G7 nations are still debating the best way to do it, considering potential legal implications.

In a letter to the secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, Michael Gove, cited by multiple British media outlets on Sunday, Khan wrote: “I urged the Government to seize property assets held by allies of Putin, as well as setting up an effective register of overseas property beneficial ownership.”

According to the mayor, the sale of assets belonging to “Russians accused of corruption or links to the Kremlin” could provide funding for more than 4,000 low-cost accommodation units “for some of those Ukrainians who have made London their home after fleeing” their country.

He also argued that the UK government’s efforts to confiscate sanctioned individuals’ assets, while laudable, “do not yet go far enough,” with certain loopholes still apparently existing. In a post on X (formerly twitter) Khan admitted that two years ago he had already put forward a proposal aimed at preventing the “capital’s housing market being used as a playground for international oligarchs,” and accused the British government of doing little to halt the flow of foreign funds into the city since then.

“Ministers must now urgently act to seize property which has been bought by Putin’s cronies, so we can use the proceeds of this for the benefit of those in need,” Khan insisted.

Britain’s investment minister, Dominic Johnson emphasized in late January the importance of preserving Britain’s reputation as a “safe and stable” place to invest, stating that before Western nations could go ahead with the confiscation of Russian assets, they should ensure that “these things are legally watertight.”

According to Johnson, the UK government should stick to the “rule of law and property rights.”

In an interview to RIA Novosti published on Monday, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov warned that Moscow would respond in kind, should Western nations appropriate its frozen sovereign funds. He noted that Russia has frozen Western assets on a comparable scale.

The minister also claimed that the steps taken by US and European authorities vis-à-vis Russian sovereign funds have already undermined global trust in the dollar and euro.