Government officials locked in talks following report of ‘unlawful’ police raid on Island premises allegedly linked to Russian billionaire

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GOVERNMENT officials and law officers were locked in talks yesterday to assess the fallout from reports that the police ‘unlawfully’ searched premises allegedly linked to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

Officers from the Economic Crime and Confiscation Unit raided two properties in April this year, seizing documents and devices.

It has never been officially confirmed which properties were raided.

Reuters news agency said it had seen a legal document containing an acknowledgement that ‘the search warrants were obtained unlawfully’ and agreeing ‘that the search warrants should be quashed’.

The agency reported that the police had also agreed to pay damages and costs, confirmed that all copies of documents seized in the searches had been destroyed and that the force had pledged to apologise to Mr Abramovich.

While there was little official comment from the government and law officers yesterday, the JEP understands that talks were hurriedly convened to assess the situation.

The talks are understood to have focused on how Jersey could safeguard its reputation as a finance centre and remain faithful to international efforts to sanction Russia and Russian citizens following the invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

Deputy Sam Mézec, chair of the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel, said that while it was right that Jersey implemented sanctions, the principle of the rule of law was sacrosanct.

Former Home Affairs Minister Gregory Guida, who left the government following the general election in June, said the Island had ‘done the right thing’ in moving to freeze assets.

And campaigner Bill Browder told the JEP that oligarchs would be prepared to invest heavily in ‘the best lawyers that money can buy’ in an attempt to demonstrate procedural errors that could potentially be used to undo the sanctions.

A spokeswoman for the Russian oligarch told Reuters: ‘Mr Abramovich has always acted in accordance with the law. We are pleased that the Jersey police have conceded in relation to these unlawful and unfounded searches.’

Following the raids, more than $7 billion worth of assets suspected to be connected to Mr Abramovich were frozen by the Royal Court by means of a formal order, known as a saisie judiciaire.

The Economic Crime and Confiscation Unit, based within the Law Officers Department, utilises the services of officers seconded from States police.

In a statement, the Law Officers Department said: ‘The saisie judiciaire imposed on 12 April 2022 remains in force. We are unable to comment on live investigations.’

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