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Oligarch sanctions were essentially a good idea but they won’t sway Putin — and the aftermath is uncertain, says expert

  • Oligarch sanctions were essentially a good idea but they won’t sway Putin, according to an expert.
  • The whole issue of sanctions has been put in the public eye, Tom Keatinge told Channel 4 News.
  • But what happens afterwards will be extremely complicated, the crime and security specialist added.

Oligarch sanctions are essentially a good idea but authorities didn’t think through what might happen next, a financial crime and security specialist has said. 

In an interview with Channel 4 News, Tom Keatinge, the director of financial crimes and security studies at the Royal United Services Institute, discussed the ongoing situation.

Keatinge said he thought oligarch sanctions were helpful “because they put the whole issue of sanctions in the public eye.”

Taking the example of sanctions imposed on Roman Abramovich and the effect it’s had on the sale of Chelsea Football Club, he said it was helpful from a PR perspective, but “it doesn’t seem to me this is going to change Vladimir Putin’s calculus.”

When asked if the sanctions affected Putin, he said: “I don’t believe that at all.”

Abramovich has been one of the individuals sanctioned by the EU and the UK but remained off the US sanctions list after Ukraine asked for him to be kept off it, per reports. He has also reportedly acted as a peace envoy between Russia and Ukraine. 

Abramovich owns at least four yachts, including two that are in Antigua. Keatinge told Channel 4 News that the question at hand was whether Antigua would follow western countries’ sanctions on Abramovich. “It sounds as though they are going to follow US and UK sanctions, so yes, maybe those assets will be detained for the time being,” he added.

Prompted on how costly the maintenance could be of the detained assets, Keatinge said: “What we are seeing from this saga of yacht, is that it’s very easy to sanction individuals, but what happens thereafter is extremely complicated and I don’t think we thought that through.”

Insider previously reported on the ease of detaining superyachts and the difficulty in finding the true owners. There are also fears that the vessels could rapidly waste away without crews to maintain them. 

Keatinge said in the interview that sanctioned individuals have been preparing for “months, if not years,” so it makes it very difficult to know what they own. 

However, “we have been freezing these assets, not seizing,” Keatinge said. “These houses and these yachts belong to these people. We can’t expropriate them — we are not a dictatorship in the UK.”

“We have to make sure we differentiate between a criminal process – taking the asset from people because they are the proceeds of crime – and simply freezing them because we are currently at a financial war with Russia.”