Carmichael: Seize oligarch mansions to house Ukrainian refugees

The Liberal Democrats have demanded that the Government seize mansions and houses belonging to oligarchs linked to Putin’s regime and use them to help house Ukrainian refugees.

In a letter to the Home Secretary, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said UK properties owned by Putin’s cronies should be used to house Ukrainian refugees temporarily while they await permanent resettlement.

He added this could prevent the situation faced by Afghan refugees last year, many of whom were left languishing for months in hotel rooms or military barracks while they awaited permanent accommodation.

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to establish a fast, safe route for Ukrainian refugees to come to the UK. The party is also demanding that local councils should receive a five-year funding package for every Ukrainian refugee they resettle.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said:

For too long Putin’s cronies have treated London as their playground, buying up luxury properties as a way to launder their dirty money.

Much of this property is currently sitting empty, while Ukrainian families are desperately fleeing their homeland looking for a safe place to live.

It’s time to freeze these assets and put them to good use, by temporarily housing Ukrainian refugees escaping this terrible war.

The Government needs to learn the lessons from the botched Afghan resettlement scheme that saw families left languishing in crowded hotel rooms for months before being rehomed.

The letter to the Home Secretary from Alistair Carmichael MP

Dear Home Secretary,

I am writing to you regarding Ukrainian refugees.

Just days on from Vladimir Putin’s decision to carry out an unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine, we are already seeing significant numbers of Ukrainians fleeing to safety. According to the UN, over 800,000 Ukrainians have crossed the border into neighbouring countries.

Given the brutal targeting of civilian populations, a flagrant breach of international law, it is highly likely that this number of displaced people will only continue to increase in the coming days and weeks.

Liberal Democrats have already called on the UK Government to make an ambitious commitment to resettle Ukrainian refugees in the UK. Our country has a proud history of providing sanctuary to those forced to flee war and persecution, and we must not turn our backs on the people of Ukraine in their hour of need. That must include withdrawing the Nationality and Borders Bill, that would criminalise Ukrainian refugees – and any others – who come to the UK to seek asylum.

Just like with Afghanistan last summer, it is highly possible that a significant number of Ukrainians who seek refuge in the UK have to be put up in temporary accommodation while waiting to be permanently resettled.

We know that Putin’s cronies have treated London as their playground – storing their dirty money in the UK in the form of property. According to Transparency International UK, £1.5 billion of property has been bought with suspicious Russian wealth – potentially just the tip of the iceberg, given the current lax regulations around property ownership declaration.

To date, the UK Government has sanctioned just eight of Putin’s cronies. It is time to sanction them all – and freeze their assets, including any property they own in the UK. These properties should then be used to house any Ukrainian refugees, on a temporary basis, while they await permanent resettlement. Rather than languishing in hotel rooms – or worse, unsuitable barracks, we should be putting Putin’s cronies’ assets to good use.

I hope that you will urgently take these steps. We do not have a second to lose.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Alistair Carmichael MP

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  • I agree, but… With news that hundreds of Russian companies are setting up accounts with state run Chinese banks and India looking at setting up a rupee payments system to bypass SWIFT. How can we enforce sanctions ? And the short and long term winner is China! Plus ultra rich Russians might put everything in a very secret foundation ( stiftung ) in Lichtenstein .

  • When Putin’s name is mentioned ‘oligarchs’ or ‘cronies’ soon follows. The conclusion is clear; Putin is presumed to be either tool or accomplice.

    Many/most of them made their vast fortunes in the chaotic collapse of the Soviet Union when, following US advisors’ recommendations, vast swathes of nationalised industries were precipitously privatised and the only people with ‘business’ experience were those operating on the wrong side of the (former) law. I remember reading of gun battles raging in the streets of one Siberian mining town between rival gangs until one won, took control of the mine, turned it into a company. The leader subsequently bought a superyacht.

    As long as Yeltsin was in charge the oligarchs ruled but, as explained on Newsnight last night by a journalist who’s studied the oligarchs’ history, Putin has turned the tables on them 180 degrees. It wasn’t a pretty process nor entirely legal, but perhaps it was a necessary one. Russian prosperity has been building ever since, but from a low base.

    The oligarchs’ saviour was the City of London, eager for a fat fee to launder their money. So, who should we beat up on? Putin or the City’s dodgy dealings, a vastly profitable business by all accounts?

    They really aren’t Putin’s cronies at all; they are Boris’s cronies. We should be clear about that because some of that dirty money leaks into our politics. Also, constantly badmouthing Putin clouds our judgement at a dangerous juncture.

  • The excuse used by ministers for not seizing mansions and other assets (including football clubs) is that ‘legal process takes time’..Strange then how Germany, France and other EU nations can seize assets , (including, in one case, a super yacht as it’s crew were attempting to sail)..

    I thought leaving the EU meant we could act without the burden of EU red tape…Hmmm

  • Phil Beesley 4th Mar '22 - 3:23pm

    I sort of agree with Alistair Carmichael’s suggestion that the properties of oligarchs be used to good purpose. I don’t know how.

    If a group of people found ways inside, perhaps they could establish a peaceful collective — in the way that “anarchist” groups occupied army camps after WWII.

    My main thought about oligarchs is that we should kick out the goons, private “close protection operatives”. Telly and film stars occasionally need the services of a minder but no British private citizen lives with a goon on his or her side.

    It would be difficult to challenge goons who are UK or Irish citizens. Non citizens could be sent away.

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