Parliament to discuss Russia sanctions bill

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This will make it easier for the Office for Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) to impose significant fines…reports Asian Lite News

Britain will seek to speed up its sanctions process on Monday via new legislation designed to allow ministers to tighten restrictions on Russian businesses and wealthy individuals.

The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill is being pushed through parliament next week as Britain tries to punish those with links to Russian President Vladimir Putin in response to his invasion of Ukraine.

“Punishing sanctions are meaningless until properly implemented, and these changes will allow us to pursue Putin’s allies in the UK with the full backing of the law, beyond doubt or legal challenge,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Britain has already sanctioned some individuals, banks and companies, but has been criticised by campaigners and opposition politicians who say it has moved too slowly to crack down on Russian oligarchs and companies.

Among the technical changes to the draft legislation is the creation of a legal power to sanction individuals or companies already placed under sanctions by allies such as the European Union, United States and Canada.

Under the new bill, it will require anonymous foreign owners of UK property to reveal their real identities to ensure criminals cannot hide behind secretive chains of shell companies, setting a new global standard for transparency. Entities who do not declare their ‘beneficial owner’ will face restrictions over selling their property, and those who break the rules could face up to 5 years in prison.

Under the reforms being brought in on UWOs, those who hold property in the UK in a trust will be brought within scope and the definition of an asset’s ‘holder’ will also be expanded to ensure individuals can’t hide behind opaque shell companies and foundations.

The reforms will also remove key barriers to the use of UWOs by increasing time available to law enforcement to review material provided in response to a UWO and reforming cost rules to protect law enforcement agencies from incurring substantial legal costs if they bring a reasonable case that is ultimately unsuccessful.

The Treasury will also intensify sanctions enforcement by introducing a more wide-ranging ‘strict civil liability test’ for monetary penalties, rather than the current one which requires firms to have knowledge or a ‘reasonable cause to suspect’ sanctions are being breached.

This will make it easier for the Office for Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) to impose significant fines. A further change will mean OFSI will be able to publicly name organisations that have breached financial sanctions, but have not received a fine.

The Register of Overseas Entities, introduced in tomorrow’s legislation, will apply retrospectively to property bought by overseas owners up to 20 years ago in England and Wales and since December 2014 in Scotland. It will be held by Companies House, with support from the UK’s Land Registries.

These new measures are being introduced as one part of our response to tackle the scourge of economic crime in the UK and will safeguard our reputation as a clean and safe place for legitimate investment.

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