New UK Law Withholds Legal Services From Any Future Dealings with Russia

Published: 03 July 2023

Scales of Justice UK

In order to ramp up pressure on those linked to Putin’s regime, the UK government has now blocked off access of its legal system to sanctioned Russian individuals and entities. (Photo: UK Government, License)

By Henry Pope

The U.K. government expanded Thursday the penalties imposed on individuals and entities linked to the Russian regime, declaring that they may no longer access legal expertise within Britain for economic benefit.

In an effort to further deter Russia’s elite and powerful from contributing to President Vladimir Putin’s war chest, the U.K. declared that, going forward, wealthy Russian individuals and entities can no longer seek legal advice as a means to circumvent sanctions or otherwise conduct business.

As Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has raged on for almost 18 months now, the British government has cracked down with 19 billion pounds (US$24 billion) in sanctions against UK-Russia trade. This includes commerce conducted between global corporations, or through international money lending, that in large part relies on legal services to ensure that business dealings flow smoothly.

“The U.K. legal system underpins many international contracts and businesses, and we will no longer allow Russia to benefit from our knowledge and expertise,” said Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Alex Chalk.

“The Russian regime must be held to account for its violation of international law, and these sanctions are increasing the economic pressure to further isolate the Russian Government from the rest of the world,” he said.

This addition to the list of penalties imposed on those loyal to the Kremlin seeks to further disrupt Russia’s access to international markets, on top of already existing import and export bans, which ultimately are meant to cripple vulnerable sectors of its economy until it can no longer sustain its war of aggression.

“We continue to crack down on Russia’s war machine, hold Putin to account, and make it harder for him to inflict suffering on the Ukrainian people,” said U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. “The U.K. stands steadfast in our pledge to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

The news comes just weeks after the EU expanded its own list of those vulnerable to sanctions. Those now on the EU’s radar include the “immediate family members” of already sanctioned persons, as well as those entrusted with their wealth and assets so that they may be laundered or otherwise protected from seizure.

Such shady practices have been highlighted in OCCRP’s recent investigation dubbed “The Rotenberg Files.” Inside is a tell-all of 50,000 leaked emails and secret documents outlining the network of lawyers, bankers, and confidants who have enabled the sanctioned financial activities of Russian oligarchs Boris and Arkady Rotenberg, childhood friends of Putin.

The leaked archive reveals how the brothers have manipulated banks, mutual funds, and proxies to preserve their hegemony. To shield themselves from the truth, they used Russia’s financial secrecy laws, which offer limited information into a company’s ownership structure, as well as trusted employees and even a secret romantic partner.