Michael Gove has told cabinet colleagues that the government should seize lavish London properties that are owned by Kremlin-linked oligarchs in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The housing secretary told a cabinet meeting on Thursday that more action was needed to clamp down on Russian dirty money being used to buy property in London, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
In 2016, Westminster’s Home Affairs Select Committee found the London property market was one of the key outlets used to launder illicit money in the UK by foreign actors.
Research by anti-corruption campaigners Transparency International suggests that more than £1bn has been spent since 2016 on the London property market by corrupt Russian oligarchs and organised crime bosses.
The Sunday Times reports that Gove wants to introduce legislation, which would allow the government to strip property from Russian oligarchs targeted by sanctions.
This legislation could be brought to parliament as early as next week.
The government is bringing forward its Economic Crime Bill next week, which will seek to target overseas money laundering in what is often called the “London Laundromat”.
A government source told the Telegraph: “It is time to shut down the racket of illicit money in British property. We are sending a strong signal that the UK’s property market is not open to corrupt individuals and regimes laundering their money.”
Gove’s call for the seizure of Oligarch-owned property comes as pressure is coming on the government to seize Chelsea Football Club from Putin ally Roman Abramovich.
The billionaire oligarch last night ceded control of key decision making at the club, however he still remains owner of the reigning Champions Leage holders.
Senior Labour MP Chris Bryant told MPs this week that “surely Mr Abramovich should not be able to own a football club in this country, surely we should be looking at seizing some of his assets, including his £152m home”.