UK to speed up sanctions against Russian oligarchs by copying allies’ decisions | Politics

The UK government is planning emergency powers to immediately sanction people who have already been sanctioned by the US or EU, in response to a barrage of criticism that it has been too slow to target Russian oligarchs.

Amendments to the sanctions laws tabled by Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, would introduce a new ‘urgent procedure’ to give the UK the legal ability to sanction individuals based on other countries while it builds its own records.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, prompting a wave of financial sanctions from the EU and the United States. However, as of Friday, the UK had only imposed sanctions on 15 people and 205 companies.

The urgent designation will be limited to 56 days, according to the amendment, seen by the Guardian. That would mean Foreign Ministry officials would still have to build a legal case for sanctions to the same standards.

However, it could allow British officials to move more quickly to keep up with the allies. EU member state officials have expressed frustration with the UK’s slow pace. On Thursday, Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s first vice-president, said the UK would “continue to follow the [EU’s] lead because the pressure of public opinion in the UK is very clear about this”.

The changes are being made as part of amendments to a long-delayed economic crime bill that was spurred by the invasion. They are intended to “streamline the process by which a competent minister can make designations for the purpose of regulating sanctions”, according to an explanatory statement attached.

The amendment states that the Minister may rely on “corresponding” provisions made by the laws of the United States, EU, Australia and Canada, as well as any other country specified by the Ministers.

Dame Margaret Hodge, a Labor MP who has long campaigned for tougher anti-corruption laws, said the amendments appeared to be “a victory for Parliament” that would give power to punish Russian oligarchs more quickly.

“The government is seeing common sense and putting in place the emergency legislation we are calling for to ensure that we can quickly sanction Russian oligarchs who support Putin’s regime,” she said.

“For too long the UK has been the jurisdiction of choice for dirty money. And now we are a global laughing stock as we have fallen behind our allies with our utter failure to effectively sanction the cronies of the Putin’s oligarch.

Tom Keatinge, financial crime expert at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank, said the changes could reflect a realization within government that it has not been able to act quickly enough during the crisis.

“Clearly the UK’s frustration with its ability to enact its own laws means it will have to rely on designations from other countries,” he said.

Other amendments include reducing an implementation period for foreign owners to declare their beneficial ownership of UK property from 18 months to six months – as requested by Hodge and other MPs – as well as increasing minimum daily fines for failing to disclose required information under the economy. crime bill of £500 to £2,500.

Hodge said: “Stronger financial penalties and a six-month implementation period will make the new property registry more effective in shedding light on any con artist or kleptocrat who wishes to use our real estate market to hide their ill-gotten gains. “

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