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High-value Russians may face even tougher vetting

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TOUGHER vetting procedures are likely to be imposed on wealthy individuals wishing to move to Jersey if they have links to the Russian government, the External Relations Minister has said.

Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich was granted residency rights in Jersey last year as a ‘high-value resident’, as revealed by the JEP in January

Following the recent nerve-agent attack on two Russians in Salisbury, Senator Philip Bailhache said that Jersey ‘stands right behind’ the UK government in support of the sanctions it has imposed on the Russian Federation so far, which has included the expulsion of 23 diplomats.

Calls have been made for the UK to impose tougher measures on Moscow, with former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remaining critically ill in hospital following the attack earlier this month.

Proposed penalties have included the freezing of assets belonging to wealthy UK-based Russian oligarchs, such as billionaire Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, who the JEP revealed in an exclusive story in January had obtained residency rights in Jersey as a ‘high-value resident’.

According to recent media reports Mr Abramovich withdrew an application for a residency permit in Switzerland in 2017 after being provisionally rejected by the authorities there.

During States question time Deputy Sam Mézec asked Senator Bailhache whether Jersey would be likely to tighten up its vetting process for wealthy immigrants from Russia.

The minister, who condemned the nerve agent attack, said that it was likely that checks on Jersey’s high value residents, known as ‘21Es’, would become more ‘stringent’.

‘Like all civilised people, I deplore the attacks on the two Russians with nerve agents by unidentified individuals in Salisbury and the government of Jersey stands right behind the UK government in the actions which have been taken against the Russian Federation,’ he said.

‘As far as the admission of Russian nationals to the Island is concerned under 21E of the relevant law, one must bear in mind that all such applicants are subject to very stringent inquiries by a number of relevant authorities in the Island before a decision is taken by the relevant minister to admit that person to the Island as a so-called wealthy immigrant.

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‘I think it is fair to say that the recent developments involving certain very rich individuals resident in the United Kingdom will lead to even more stringent approaches by the relevant authorities in Jersey, when such applications are made under article 21E.’

Deputy Mézec asked whether having close links to the Russian government should become ‘grounds for refusal’ to be accepted as a 21E.

The minister replied: ‘I think that all relevant considerations, and the Deputy has mentioned one of them, would be taken into account in making such a decision.’

Also during the session, Senator Philip Ozouf asked the minister whether Jersey would follow the UK’s lead in applying Magnitsky provisions – a set of sanctions enacted by the US government, which the UK recently decided to adopt, against Russians linked to corruption and human rights abuses.

Senator Bailhache said that the Law Officers’ department, which provides the States with legal advice, would consider the matter and make recommendations to ministers.

He added that Jersey has a number of laws in place or being developed at this time to deal with the freezing and confiscation of assets linked to criminal activity.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
author

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