New Tory law to sanction Russians actually lets them off the hook

Boris Johnson and Alexander Temerko: You can imagine the conversation – “Don’t worry Alex, the fix is in so you can keep donating hundreds of thousands of quid to us via Aquind Ltd.

A law to harden and quicken UK sanctions against allies of Vladimir Putin that was fast-tracked through the House of Commons contains a clause to get them all off the hook.

The Economic Crime Bill intends to end anonymity for foreign billionaires who own land and other assets in the UK, making it harder for them to launder money into the country. Apparently they’ll be named on a register and that will stop them.

But Section 18 of the Economic Crime Bill, “Exemptions”, states:

“The Secretary of State may, by giving written notice to a person, exempt the person under this section if satisfied that to do so is necessary – (a) in the interests of national security; (b) in the interests of the economic wellbeing of the United Kingdom; (c) for the purposes of preventing or detecting serious crime.”

The Secretary of State, at the moment, is Priti Patel.

You see the problem?

The Bill makes it entirely possible for Russian oligarchs with close connections to members of the government like, perhaps, Boris Johnson to persuade them that transparency would force them to remove their assets from the UK and therefore harm the economy, and that it is in the UK’s economic interest for their identities to remain confidential.

This encourages This Writer to reason that the government has never intended to sanction Russians with close connections to it; we know no sanctions have been imposed on Russians who have donated money to the Conservative Party or any of its MPs, and now we see that the new clampdown Bill is designed to exempt them from any penalties.

This is more evidence that although the Johnson government says it supports Ukraine, it is in fact on the side of the Russians who pay their drinks bills.

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