Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich may face sanctions before he is able to complete the sale of Chelsea Football Club after the Government announced it could target ‘hundreds’ of wealthy Russians in the UK from today.
The Billionaire, who has been the owner of Chelsea since 2003, announced on Wednesday, March 2 that he would be selling the Premier League club for a reported £3 billion in light of his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Last week, American merchant bank The Raine Group, with whom Abramovich is partnering to oversee the sale, set a deadline of March 15 for prospective buyers to submit formal bids.
But Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Monday declared that the Government’s Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill – reinforced with new measures designed to strengthen the UK’s sanctions regime against wealthy Russians – is expected to be approved by Parliament one day prior.
According to Mail Online, If the legislation makes its way through the House of Commons and the House of Lords by Monday, March 14 as expected, Abramovich could be hit with huge sanctions before he is able to accept any bids for his football club – though he denies there are any grounds on which to sanction him.
It comes after the tycoon’s £330 million superyacht ‘Eclipse’ left the Dutch island of St Maarten in the Caribbean last Thursday and set sail for international waters, in a likely attempt to avoid being seized by authorities.
The UK has faced criticism for the sanctions it has announced, with some of its international partners having gone further and acted faster.
Almost 100 Russian oligarchs, politicians, and companies around the world have been sanctioned by the EU or US, but not by Britain, which has so far brought sanctions against a meagre total of 13 Russian elites.
Liz Truss has argued that sanctions laws in the EU, Canada and the US are ‘less onerous’ than the ones in Britain, and has reportedly told MPs that London law firms are pushing against restrictions on their oligarch clients.
On Monday, the Foreign Secretary announced the Government will soon have renewed legal powers to begin implementing tougher sanctions on wealthy Russians with assets in the UK, once the newly-reinforced Economic Crime Bill is passed.
‘If Parliament passes the legislation by Monday, March 14, we will be able to sanction the hundreds of individuals by next Tuesday, March 15,’ said Truss, while Home Secretary Priti Patel declared the bill ‘will send a very strong signal that the UK will not be home for corruption’.
Patel also said the Government will bring forward a second Economic Crime Bill in the next parliamentary session with further measures ‘because we simply cannot get all the measures in right now’.
She said: ‘We’ve focused on the ones that will have the greatest impact and the greatest enablement.’
Amid mounting pressure in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the 55-year-old Abramovich pledged to write off £1.5 billion of his football club’s loans, and said that proceeds of its sale will go to providing aid to victims of the conflict – both Ukrainian and Russian.
The oligarch has thus far escaped the sanctions levied at some of his wealthy countrymen. But should the Economic Crime Bill be passed next Monday as the Foreign Secretary expects, Abramovich could face a barrage of sanctions and the seizing of his assets well before he is able to complete the sale of Chelsea FC.
He denies there are any grounds to sanction him.