Manhattan borough president: Seize Russian oligarchs’ NY assets

Mark Levine urges action to help Ukraine

Many Russian oligarchs have for decades parked their money in the safe haven that is America’s luxury real estate market, but now that their country has invaded Ukraine, some are calling on the United States to seize those properties as punishment for the incursion.

Such a strong statement came from Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, who took on Russia in a tweet early Friday morning.

“For years Manhattan has been one of the most popular safe harbors for Russian oligarchs to park their cash, especially via ultra-high-end apartments,” he tweeted. “It’s time to start seizing their properties. #SupportUkraine.”

Levine pointed out in his tweet that such sanctions are already on the table across the pond, where, according to The Atlantic, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has demanded oligarchs’ real estate there — estimated to be worth £1.1 billion — be expropriated.

“For far too long ministers have turned a blind eye to the use of our capital’s homes as a safe harbor for oligarchs to park their cash, which is having a negative impact on both our international reputation and our local housing market,” Khan said. “Now is the time to act.”

In London, the owners of more than 1,100 luxury properties have their principal correspondence address in Russia as of August 2021 — up from 86 at the start of 2010 — according to Bloomberg News.

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Additional UK assets are hidden behind the country’s somewhat opaque real estate market that often allows offshore entities to shield the identities of owners.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week he hopes to remove the camouflage by pushing legislation on a long-delayed register of overseas property ownership, a move that would reveal exactly who owns what, making it more difficult for them to hide their money there.

Johnson added a new unit in the country’s National Crime Agency will target “Russian assets hidden in the U.K.,” Johnson said, noting that “oligarchs in London have nowhere to hide.”

Back in New York, signs of support for Ukrainians were all over town, with both City Hall and the Empire State Building alit in Ukrainian colors.

[Bloomberg News] — Vince DiMiceli