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Housing Secretary Considers Seizure Of UK Property Owned By Sanctioned Russians

03.03.22

Housing Secretary Michael Gove is “looking at seizing the land and property of sanctioned [Russian] individuals”, reports Abode2 luxury property magazine, with a view to potentially allowing the British government to “swiftly acquire specific land and property in the UK owned by a sanctioned person, without the need to pay them compensation”.

Such seizures are not allowed under the UK’s current property laws; new legislation would be needed. But the FT has been told that civil servants are “very carefully” examining what steps would need to be taken to allow homes and property assets to be seized, in an escalation of economic deterrents to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“Freezing assets is not enough”, said a source within the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, echoing the Prime Minister’s words yesterday; “the vice is tightening on the Putin regime and it will continue to tighten,” Johnson told the House of Commons, referring to the roll-out of more economic sanctions against Russia and its wealthy leadership.

Alongside a ban on British individuals and companies doing business with any sanctioned entity, the long-awaited Economic Crime Bill – which includes a new register of foreign property owners (backdated for 20 years in England) – is finally due to go before Parliament on Monday. Read our new briefing on improved transparency rules here.

Gove pitched “emergency legislation enabling the state to seize residential and commercial property” to a cabinet meeting last week. “A senior government source” told The Sunday Times that “seized property could be used to house Ukrainian refugees.”

The FT has heard the same thing, with unnamed Government sources suggesting “Ukrainians fleeing their homeland could be housed in the lavish UK residences of oligarchs hit with sanctions.”

As it stands, potential property seizures could hit nine super-rich sanctioned individuals; this number will almost certainly rise. The European Union has imposed sanctions on more individual Russians than the UK.

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