The Real Deal New York

After ex-spy’s poisoning, Britain threatens Russian elite’s London assets

Is this the beginning of the end for "Londongrad?"
March 17, 2018 10:02AM

From left: Roger Moore, Vladimir Putin and Queen Elizabeth II in 2003. (Credit: Allan Warren, Michel Curi/Flickr, Kremlin)

Prime Minister Theresa May is armed and could be dangerous to wealthy Russians who park dubious funds in London property and UK-based businesses.

Her likely weapon of choice? Britain’s new unexplained wealth orders (UWOs), which went into effect at the end of January and have been used once so far against an unnamed Asian politician. UWOs allow authorities to seize property and assets if a buyer’s income is lower than their purchases and they buyer cannot prove their bank account is being lined by legitimate sources.

After expelling 23 Russian diplomats earlier this week, May said her government would “freeze Russian state assets wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of U.K. nationals or residents” and target “serious criminals and corrupt elites,” according to the New York Times. She also promised to introduce legislation similar to the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which allows American authorities to freeze Russian assets on humanitarian grounds.

The threat to Londongrad in particular — after all, London is a well-known favorite among foreign politicians and oligarchs looking to buy homes — comes after a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned in London this week with a military-issue nerve agent that seems to have Russia’s fingerprints all over it.

If May makes good on her threats, London could do a lot of damage, according to Mark Hollingsworth who has spend years studying Russian real estate deals in the city.

“If they target the right ones and shut them down, they’ll lose a fair amount of money,” he told the Times. “If that happens, Londongrad probably no longer exists.” [NYT]Erin Hudson