The past week was a battleground in multiple arenas, as the ramifications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine breached the defences of English football giant, Roman Abramovich, whose Putin links saw him sanctioned by the UK government; in the US, authorities sent a new cryptocurrency taskforce into action against cyberspace-based economic crime; and the Financial Action Task Force took aim at the United Arab Emirates with its latest money laundering grey list.
Find out more on these stories below.
UK Government sanctions Chelsea FC boss over possible links to Putin
The UK Government has sanctioned the Russian owner of English Premier League giant Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich, over his relationship with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. It comes in the wake of the Ukraine invasion and pressures on the UK government to respond with strength.
Abramovich's intended sale of the club has been stalled by the sanctions against him, although fixtures may continue within limited parameters, and Chelsea fans are set to feel the impact.
The UK Government issued a statement on 10th March 2022, explaining the conditions of the sanctions as follows:
- Abramovich will have his assets frozen and be deprived of any financial benefit from his ownership of Chelsea FC and any revenue it generates, including the sale of the club
- A new licensing agreement will protect the jobs of players and staff and allow for the upkeep of club grounds, at which games are still permitted, and can be broadcast
- Although direct sale of merchandise and new ticket sales to fans are prohibited, current season ticket holders can still attend home games. Away fixtures can still be played with restricted allowances for travel costs
The UK Government’s move against Abramovich is the latest sanctions blow to the country’s Russian billionaire expatriates over the invasion of Ukraine. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries explained that “Putin’s attack on Ukraine continues and we are witnessing new levels of evil by the hour. We are now turning the screw on influential oligarchs enabling his regime.”
Read more on this story at Sky News.
US Government launches new financial crime task force specialising in cryptocurrency
The US Deputy Attorney General, Lisa Monaco, announced the formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation-led (FBI) Virtual Asset Exploitation Unit (VAXU) at the Munich Cyber Security Conference last month. VAXU is a cornerstone of US President Joe Biden’s executive order issued on 9th March 2022, which heralds his “whole-of-Government approach” to the regulation of cryptoassets.
Monaco explained that the unit will utilise cryptocurrency-specific expertise and infrastructure, blockchain technology analysis, and virtual asset seizure capacity. VAXU will also provide mentorship and training to FBI agents investigating cybercrime. She added that the new unit will work closely with the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET), a cross-section of anti-money laundering experts, technology specialists, and prosecutors dedicated to bringing cryptocurrency criminals to book.
Monaco further emphasised the importance of cultivating and preserving international co-operation to combat cryptoasset crime, in keeping with the global character of virtual currency abuse. She also noted the importance of disrupting or preventing cryptocurrency-based criminal activities where appropriate, as well as bringing the criminals to justice and retrieving stolen funds.
She addressed the bad actors in closing, saying that her “message to cybercriminals is equally clear: the long arm of the law can- and now will- stretch much farther into cyberspace than you think. If you continue to come for us, we will come for you."
FATF adds the United Arab Emirates to their money laundering watchlist
The global financial crime watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) added the oil and gas rich United Arab Emirates (UAE) to its so-called ‘grey list' of jurisdictions which require increased monitoring for money laundering and terrorist financing. The relegation for the UAE came as an outcome of FATF’s March 2022 plenary session. FATF noted that the UAE, a veritable powerhouse of financial services and gold trading in the Middle East, had made significant headway in tightening its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CFT) framework since it adopted a mutual evaluation report (MER) in 2020.
The UAE, which markets itself as business-friendly and offering attractive lifestyles to wealthy expatriates, has made progress in cleaning up its reputation as a conduit for illicit financial flows, namely the smuggling of cash and valuables. Being grey listed could result in economic sanctions against the UAE, impact the success of loan applications from international entities such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, and cause reputational damage that reduces foreign trade traffic.
According to a separate report, the UAE responded to the news by saying that “robust actions and ongoing measures taken by the UAE government and private sector are in place to secure the stability and integrity of the country's financial system."
Read more on FI News.
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