Jersey to play part in Russian asset freeze

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JERSEY will now play its part in freezing any assets linked to seven Russian oligarchs – including Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich,– after the UK government announced sanctions against them.

External Relations Minister Ian Gorst confirmed that Jersey had followed the UK in issuing sanctions against Mr Abramovich and others with alleged links to Vladimir Putin’s regime.

The newly imposed measures mean that UK and Jersey businesses are prevented from dealing with any funds owned, held or controlled by Mr Abramovich and are unable to provide funds to him.

Yesterday this newspaper reported that a network of business dealings associated with the running of the football club led to inconspicuous offices in Colomberie.

Just hours after the revelations were published in the JEP, the UK announced an asset freeze against Mr Abramovich and several other oligarchs reportedly worth a combined £15bn, with Jersey’s government automatically following suit. According to the UK government, the seven oligarchs allegedly have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin – although Mr Abramovich has consistently denied this.

Senator Gorst said: ‘Jersey is co-operating with the UK in all measures, including in respect of those persons with links to Jersey who have been subject to sanctions today. Our robust legislation is underscored by severe criminal consequences for those who fail to adhere to it.

‘We are a responsible and internationally co-operative jurisdiction and are implementing all UK sanctions and are committed to remaining in lockstep with the UK.’

While Senator Gorst declined to comment on specific cases, he said: ‘If a general individual had a loan and that loan was the subject to a sanction, then no further payments either way would be received on that loan.’

Senator Gorst said that a taskforce had been set up, which would look at what assets were held in Jersey.

High-profile anti-Putin activist Bill Browder called on Jersey authorities to identify any assets in the Island ‘and take appropriate steps to freeze them’. He said: ‘Now the real test for Jersey comes. This is the moment of truth. This is Jersey’s time to step in and do its part for the Ukrainians. Mr Browder’s campaigning led to the government adopting a version of the so-called Magnitsky Act, which was originally introduced by the US Congress in 2012 to impose asset freezes and travel bans on a number of Russian nationals suspected of involvement in the death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Mr Abramovich owns Fordstam, a company registered at Stamford Bridge, also the location of the premiership side, that loans money to Chelsea FC. Fordstam has received funds from Camberley International Investments – a firm registered at 50 Colomberie. Fordstam financial documents show an outstanding Camberley loan of £1.5bn, as of 30 June 2021, which had risen from £1.49bn the year before.

Camberley was registered in August 2020 by Zedra Trust Company, which has offices in several global locations, including at 50 La Colomberie, according to Jersey Financial Services Commission documents. Zedra declined to comment again yesterday, with a spokesperson saying it was not the firm’s ‘policy to discuss individual clients or speculative matters relating to clients’.

Announcing the UK’s sanctions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘There can be no safe havens for those who have supported Putin’s vicious assault on Ukraine.’

Meanwhile, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: ‘Today’s sanctions show once again that oligarchs and kleptocrats have no place in our economy or society. With their close links to Putin they are complicit in his aggression.’

Mr Abramovich recently indicated he was seeking to sell Premier League club Chelsea, making the announcement in the wake of the Russian regime’s invasion of Ukraine and sanctions being imposed against allies of President Vladimir Putin. The sanctions placed on him mean that any attempts to sell the club will be blocked and many of the club’s business dealings – such as ticket and merchandise sales – have been halted. In 2018, the JEP exclusively revealed that Mr Abramovich had been granted high-net-worth residency rights in 2018. The oligarch never made the move to Jersey after withdrawing his UK visa application.

He was instead granted Israeli citizenship. Three Russian nationals gained 2(1)e ‘high-net-worth individual’ residency rights between 2013 and 2020. A close business associate of Mr Abramovich, Eugene Tenenbaum, is listed as a Jersey resident on documents held at Companies House in London and is understood to have been given Jersey residential status at around the same time as Mr Abramovich.

Senator Gorst also said that Jersey had a long-standing beneficial ownership register, which lists directors of a company and those with over 25% control of a company, and was ‘committed to implementing a public registry’ along with colleagues in the Isle of Man and Guernsey by 2023.

‘When we have a public register, then of course information will be available in the public domain, in a way that it is not now,’ he said. ‘We exchange this information with authorities worldwide, particularly with the UK and we welcome any efforts globally to improve the accuracy of registry data.’

Jersey Finance reiterated that they could not comment on individual cases in response to further queries regarding Camberley.

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