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Oligarch firesale: Action needed to seize assets now

March 2, 2022 4:01 PM

The Liberal Democrats have warned that the government's delay in sanctioning Putin's cronies is leading to an "oligarch firesale," meaning the opportunity to make them help pay the bill for rising energy costs risks being missed.

To date, the government has just sanctioned just eight new individuals, at least three of whom were previously sanctioned by the US some years ago. This contrasts with the EU which earlier this week announced an expanded sanctions list targeting specific oligarchs. The government's proposed register of foreign owners of UK property also includes an 18-month "transition window" which experts have wanted could allow oligarchs time to sell off any property they own in the UK.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for an 'oligarch's tax', immediately sanctioning all of Putin's cronies with money and property in the UK and beginning the process of seizing their assets. This would be combined with a windfall tax on oil and gas super-profits, including those of Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom, whose trading arm is based in London.

The party has said the money raised through this oligarch's tax could be used to help families facing soaring energy bills. Transparency International UK has identified £1.5bn of UK property bought with suspicious Russian wealth, while Gazprom recently announced a £179m dividend. Meanwhile wholesale gas prices have spiked again to nearly £4 a therm, close to their Autumn peak, due to the uncertainty around the future of Russian gas in Europe.

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran MP commented:

"We should be making Putin's cronies foot the bill for this crisis, by seizing their assets in the UK and using the funds as an 'oligarch tax' to offset rising energy bills.

"But at the rate the government is moving, there will be nothing left to seize. We risk letting Kremlin-linked oligarchs get away with it through a mass 'firesale' of their assets.

"Britain should be leading the way in finally standing up to Putin's associates. The Foreign Secretary must come to Parliament and announce new sanctions targets immediately."


Notes to Editors

  • Transparency International UK have identified £1.5 billion of property in the UK bought with suspicious Russian wealth. Unexplained Wealth Orders can be used to begin the process of recovering assets, and the authorities which can issue them include the National Crime Agency and HMRC.
  • The Government announced on Thursday 24 February accelerated reforms to Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs), which are aimed at making asset seizure easier.
  • Liberal Democrats propose the accelerated passage of the Registration of Overseas Entities Bill and the Economic Crime Bill, which will provide greater transparency and beef up the resources available to enforcement agencies going after suspicious wealth.

Oligarch tax: Liberal Democrats are calling on the UK Government to begin the process of seizing the assets of Putin's cronies who have money and property in the UK. The party is urging the Government to make clear that any proceeds recovered using UWOs will be used to support those most struggling with their energy bills. The 'oligarch tax' would be used to fund support to help the most vulnerable struggling with their energy bills. This includes the expansion of the Warm Home Discount to all those on Pension Credit and Universal Credit and doubling it to £300, as well as the doubling of all existing Winter Fuel Payments. Alongside this, money from the tax would be used to kickstart a new UK-wide energy efficiency programme, aiming to reduce dependency on Russian gas by making homes cheaper to heat, while cutting bills for millions.