MPs must speed up new law to seize sanctioned Russian assets: Senator

An independent senator is calling on the House of Commons to speed up a new law she is proposing that would seize billions of dollars in frozen Russian assets and use them to rebuild Ukraine.

Senator Ratna Omidvar’s bill, entitled “An Act on the re-use of certain seized, frozen or sequestered assets”, is due to pass the Senate, meaning it will soon head to the House of Commons, where MPs elect will decide their fate.

Canada’s current set of sanctions laws allows for the freezing of assets, but does not provide legal authority to take that money and use it for other purposes, such as rebuilding a battered country.

Canada joined its international allies in sanctioning more than 1,100 Russian individuals and entities to punish President Vladimir Putin and his supporters, the wealthy oligarchs, for the February 24 invasion that reduced large swathes of Ukraine to rubble and forced millions of to flee their homes.

Omidvar said the images of destruction emerging from Ukraine make it essential to enact a law to start seizing money before Parliament adjourns for the summer of June.

“I feel immediacy and urgency are so important that we need to speed up this bill and make it law and apply it to the situation in Ukraine as soon as we can,” he said in an interview.

Under Omidvar’s proposed legislation, the frozen money would be reused to support victims of Russian attacks. That would be a legal rarity in the international financial landscape.

Senator Ratna Omidvar, left, poses with Senator Rosemary Moodie, center, and Senator Peter Harder outside the Senate Chamber in Ottawa on February 19. Under Omidvar’s proposed legislation, the frozen money would be reused to support victims of Russian attacks. , which would be a legal rarity. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

“Every house that is bombed has victims and victims who flee, victims who are injured, victims whose lives are destroyed and there is absolutely no way to help them. Under the current circumstances, everyone’s coffers are empty,” he said.

Wrapping up the G7 finance ministers’ meeting in Washington on Friday, the group acknowledged that the $84 billion the United States has already spent to help Ukraine since Russia seized the Crimean peninsula in 2014 is just the beginning.

“In the context of the ongoing brutal Russian aggression, the accompanying suffering of the Ukrainian population and the continuing destruction of the country itself, we stand ready to do more as needed,” the G7 ministers said.

Focus on targeting the ‘enablers’

Standing next to her Ukrainian counterpart, Sergii Marchenko, in Washington on Friday, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said that “winning the war and then rebuilding Ukraine will be a huge task. This will be perhaps the biggest political undertaking of this decade for all the rules.” based democracies. Sergii, I want you to know that Canada will do its part.”

Marchenko said he was “eager to find a way” to move the frozen Russian assets into a “Ukrainian fund to rebuild Ukraine, to get Ukraine back.”

Omidvar said a key feature of his bill is the creation of a central registry to find where money is hiding and to help identify “enablers” — accountants, lawyers and financial advisers, among others — who are helping wealthy Russians loyal to Putin to hide and launder money.

Although such information is hard to come by, she believes there is a lot of money on Canadian soil.

“Even in the absence of a list, given Canada’s good financial governance, we are also a safe haven for dirty money,” Omidvar said.

As an example, he cited Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who is a major shareholder in Evraz, a British multinational manufacturing company that operates a steel plant in Regina.

Abramovich is the owner of a major British soccer team and was a fixture in London’s high society before facing international sanctions last month, including from Canada.

Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned in March for his links to the Russian government and his invasion of Ukraine. He is one of the main shareholders in Evraz, a British multinational manufacturing company that operates a steel plant in Regina. (Martin Meissner/The Associated Press)

“I have no proof,” Omidvar said. “But suffice it to say that it’s a good guess that Canada’s lax AML laws do in fact factor into all of this, and that money will be found here to reuse.”

Omidvar said he is hopeful of cross-party support in the House of Commons to pass his bill before the summer recess.

She is also encouraged by a commitment, albeit vague, in Freeland’s recent budget that the government is prepared to take action to seize the assets of those who have been sanctioned.

“In partnership with our allies, Canada formed the Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs (REPO) Task Force and committed federal resources to work with our partners, both foreign and domestic, to attack the assets and illicit profits of Russian elites. Russia and those acting on its behalf,” the budget said.

“This includes the use of resources to identify, freeze and seize assets to ensure that sanctioned individuals and entities can no longer access their resources and assets abroad.”

Leave a Comment