Why not seize Putin’s assets?

Stephen Beard writes: Few people know more about the mechanics of smart sanctions against Russians than Bill Browder, Chief Executive Officer of Hermitage Capital Management. Once the biggest foreign investor in Russia, Browder fell foul of the Kremlin after exposing corruption. His lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was later detained, and died in custody in murky circumstances. Browder lobbied for The Magnitsky Act, which has so far imposed asset freezes and visa bans on more than a dozen Russian officials. Browder argues that Putin could certainly be targeted too.

“He has lots of assets in the U.K., France, Germany and various places. I am sure there are plenty of intelligence agencies that have plenty of information about what Putin owns and where,” Browder says.

Putin’s true net worth has not been published. Some estimates suggest it could be as much $70 billion.

And here’s the problem: The Russian leader and his oligarchs own so much wealth that freezing it all would be a monumental task. Take Chelsea Football Club, now owned by one of Putin’s closest associates, Roman Abramovic. Are the British authorities really going to seize it? It just goes to show – admits Anne Applebaum – how dependent London has become on Russian cash. [Continue reading…]

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