Sanctions

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:53 pm on 22nd September 2022.

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Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight 5:53 pm, 22nd September 2022

I will make a few brief points to the Minister and raise some specifics, as my hon. Friend Mark Eastwood did. It is quite clear that Russia is now actively trying to get round sanctions on an industrial scale. We are seeing that in its use of tech and microchips, in the potential sale of raw steel products to third parties, which then get re-exported back into Europe, and, as I am sure the Minister will know, in the passing of assets to wives, kids, families and in-laws of various types.

Along with Stephen Doughty, I was also in Kyiv as part of that delegation and was likewise a guest of Yalta European Strategy—obviously I will declare that in due course. When we met folks in Kyiv there was a sense of urgency that, as well as all the great stuff we are doing, we need to be helping them to shut down Russia’s ability to maintain a multibillion-dollar monthly war effort. Therefore, the sanctions regime is absolutely vital in achieving that. When it comes to the specifics of the oligarchs, what they wanted was that money going back to Ukraine in war reparations.

On specific elements, I mentioned this point in my intervention, but I would just like to build on it for a couple of minutes. In UK courts, Russian state parties are still bringing cases. Is that right? If successful, the winnings from those cases go back via Russian proxies to the Russian state, where they are used to continue to fund the illegal invasion of Ukraine. As I said, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice, and another 10 Members of Parliament from both sides of the House have co-signed the letter. The 12th amendment to the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 has already established that it is a criminal offence to knowingly provide the Russian state and other entities with funds or economic resources. I am asking for the Government to consider whether that provision can be applied to the legal winnings from ongoing litigation in UK courts.

Along with the 10 other signatories, I am asking the Government to prevent Russian state entities, such as Gazprom and VTB Bank, from using the legal system to effectively conduct a form of lawfare against Ukraine. As people may know, tackling the amoral offering of services to highly dubious characters has been quite close to my heart. It is less revolting than some of the intimidation of journalists and campaigners, but now, because of the situation with the war, it should come under the scope of Government action.

We are asking specifically for the following: the introduction of further sanctions against British law firms and banks which do not comply with existing sanctions regimes, and an amendment to hold managing partners accountable for their work should they be violating sanctions; the direct prohibition for UK-based law firms to represent entities controlled by the Government of the Russian Federation, including the Bank of Russia and entities in which the Russian state has a significant or controlling interest; and, thirdly, for His Majesty’s Treasury and the Ministry of Justice to address and tell us what they are going to do about ongoing litigation cases, of which there are at least half a dozen in English and Welsh courts, to ensure the Russian Federation is not evading the sanctions regime and is not profiting from winning those court cases. I have a list of about eight big law firms, including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, VTB Bank Europe, PCB Byrne, Steptoe & Johnson and a number of Russian state entities. They are in the letter that, in the last few minutes, I have pinged to the Minister. I would be most grateful if the Government could give a considered response to those three points, but also to the current litigations as they go through the UK courts.