How Russian Oligarchs Bought London?

Houses and cars are seen in Eaton Square in Belgravia, London
Credit: Getty Images

LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine) – Russian oligarchs have been the most influential personalities in London for the past few years. They are controlling and influencing a lot of major decisions made in the courts and outside.

It has become possible mainly due to their massive wealth. Some experts believe that London is a place where everything can be bought if you have good enough wealth and that is what the oligarchs did over the years.

Russian Oligarchs and their assets

Roman Abramovich is one of the most Powerful Russian Oligarchs in London who is also the owner of the famous football club Chelsea.

Abramovich leapt from obscurity to tabloid prominence when he bought London’s Chelsea football club in 2009 and after that, he bought a 15-bedroom mansion behind Kensington palace for ninety million pounds.

Worth an estimated 9 billion euros, Abramovich is clearly the most celebrated Russian oligarch to make his home in London but he is not short of company.

Oleg Deripaska, one of the other Oligarchs of Russia owns 5 Belgrave square in Belgravia which was the former home for the mid-20th century conservative politician, diarist and social climber henry chips channon.

Belgravia’s Eaton square has become so famous among Rich Russians that it has become known as Red Square. The top-secret that most of the properties were bought there under anonymous companies so the beneficial owner remains unknown.

Both Abramovich and Deripaska appear on a list of Russian oligarchs published by the US treasury last January in connection with new sanctions legislation.

Rachel Davis, head of advocacy at transparency international said that the group found that 4.4 billion pounds worth of Uk property was owned by Unknown wealth, the fifth part of it owned by Russian individuals.

She said “ We are the global financial centre, we have close ties to secrecy jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands”

She further added, “They can buy expensive properties here, they can pay money to Pr firms who can help launder their reputations, there are estate agents, lawyers, accountants, trust and company service providers that will help them spend their cash”.

As per reports from 2008 to 2015 around 750 high net worth Russians took advantage of the Tier 1 investment scheme placed by Gordon brown.

According to the scheme, if you have an extra 2 million pounds, you can invest that in UK to get a temporary residence and after some time go on to apply for permanent residence within five years.

Roman Borisovich, the founder of Clampk, the comparison for legislation against money laundering in properties by Kleptocrats, runs kleptocrats tours to identify properties in London bought by Russians with links to the Kremlin.

Borisovich claims that Russian Oligarchs living in London must not be confused with self-made, conventional businessmen. He said that their riches come from the transaction with the Russian government.

He explained that they either sold something for a fortune to the state of Russia or they bought something for a fortune to the state of Russia. Their money usually leaves Russia to be laundered through Cyprus and then on to the British Virgin Islands.

British Government actions against Russian wealth

The attempted murder in Salisbury of ex-Russian spy Sergei skripal and his daughter Yulia has forced the British government to investigate the sources of Russian wealth in the country.

Theresa May, the British Prime minister took diplomatic action by expelling 23 Russian diplomats and suspending high-level political engagement with Moscow. But she is still a bit hesitant to take action against the wealth of Russians who have invested heavily in London’s property market.

Chris Bryant, Labour MP and chairman of the all-party parliamentary group has been urging the British government for a long time to crack down on doubtful Russian money in London.

He said, “The first thing we could do is we could make sure that the illegal money laundering, the dodgy sideways moving of money from Russia here, the buying of exorbitant properties comes to an end”.

He further added, “Unfortunately, London has become the home of dodgy money and we need to change that”.

Boris Johnson Statement

Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister said that law firms who are working with Russian oligarchs to save them from sanctions could face several penalties.

Boris Johnson said “ The legal profession, everybody involved in assisting those who wish to hide money in London and assisting corrupt oligarchs have been set on notice their actions are under scrutiny”.

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.