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Sadiq Khan calls for £1 billion of property owned by Russian oligarchs in London to be seized to fund 4,000 new homes

25 February 2024, 06:00 | Updated: 25 February 2024, 06:26

Sadiq Khan has called for Russian oligarchs' assets to be seized
Sadiq Khan has called for Russian oligarchs' assets to be seized. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Sadiq Khan has called for the government to seize London property owned by corrupt Russian oligarchs and sell it off to fund 4,000 homes.

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The sales of the assets, which the mayor said were worth £1.1 billion, could go towards funding affordable housing for Ukrainians who have moved to London to flee the war, he said.

It comes after Foreign Secretary David Cameron called earlier for frozen Russian assets to be seized to help fund the Ukrainian war effort.

People around the world marked the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Saturday. Hundreds of Ukraine supporters marched through London in support of the country’s efforts to defend itself against Russia.

In a letter to Michael Gove, the secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, Mr Khan said that the government’s efforts to seize property held by allies of Vladimir Putin are welcome but “do not go far enough”.

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The mayor said he was concerned that property ownership could be hidden by financial trust schemes.

Mr Khan also called for the Ukraine Family visa scheme to be reopened, after the government said it was winding it down. The closure of this scheme has been described as a 'cruel move', but the government has insisted that refugees can still come to the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Mr Khan said in his letter: “In addition to unwavering support for Ukraine in response to Putin’s aggression, we also need to take stronger action closer to home. Two years ago, I set out proposals to fight back against the capital’s housing market being used as a playground for international oligarchs, whilst also raising funds to help tackle the country’s housing crisis, which is most acute here in London.

“I urged the Government to seize property assets held by allies of Putin, as well as setting up an effective register of overseas property beneficial ownership.

Father Vitaliy Novak asks the UK to keep supporting Ukraine

He said that while he welcomed the creation of a register of overseas entities who want to buy, sell or transfer property or land in the UK, he shared campaigners' concerns "that these transparency measures do not yet go far enough in shining a light on overseas purchases which could be aiding offences such as tax evasion and money laundering, as well as hiding the assets of those who would come under any possible sanctions regime.

“In particular, I am concerned that financial trusts can still be used to mask property ownership.”

He added: “New City Hall analysis reveals that if the £1.1bn of property identified by Transparency International in 2022 as being bought by Russians accused of corruption or links to the Kremlin could be sold, this would provide sufficient funding for over 4,000 low-cost homes.

“This could include providing affordable accommodation for some of those Ukrainians who have made London their home after fleeing Ukraine following Putin’s invasion.

“Ministers must now urgently act to seize property which has been bought by Putin’s cronies, so we can use the proceeds of this for the benefit of those in need. I welcome the steps announced by government yesterday but they do not go far enough.

“Can you confirm how many, if any, properties have been seized, and their value, according to Government records?

“Safe routes for Ukrainians and their families fleeing war and seeking sanctuary in this country must be kept open. I am alarmed to see the Government’s announcement on the closure of the Ukraine Family Scheme.

“Ukrainians still going through unimaginable horror in their home country should be able to join family members already taking sanctuary in the UK. As Mayor of London, I want to make it clear that they are still welcome here in our city, and urge Ministers to make the same guarantees as a matter of urgency.

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