Interviews, INVESTMENT CLIMATE

Andrey Movchan: UK audits its residence permits

UK authorities will request all Russian nationals residing in the country, to prove their wealth was acquired in a proper and lawful manner. That was announced few months ago when the Sergei Skripal scandal was just starting to unfold. Last week, that was once again firmly voiced by PM Theresa May’s representative who pointed out that policy relates to the Russian money laundered in the UK financial institutions.

Invest Foresight got comments on the possible impact of such steps on the businesses of the two countries, from reputed economist and financial expert Andrey Movchan, Director of the Economic Policy Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Eugeniy Biyatov / RIA Novosti

– Many experts claimed that at the end of the day, there would never be any audit of the wealth compliance. They used to refer to the following reasoning. London is a global financial center and financial inflows are the foundation for the national prosperity. In case the wealth of the Russian nationals residing in London is put under scrutiny, nationals of other countries may well start moving their capitals out of the UK being concerned that they may soon find themselves next in line. Yet it now appears the British are quite serious. What consequences can that bring about for Russia and for the UK?

– I know little of what is really happening. My friends who have job or business in the UK, they say nothing has changed at all. At least they have not noticed any shifts. Therefore all the hot air of the British politicians, seems to be some stand-alone rhetoric.

But that is what people with ‘clean’ money say.

To my knowledge, the British have activated a rather massive program of reviewing earlier issued visas and residence permits. Somewhere in their regulations, in their backpocket, they always had it specified that a permanent or temporary residence permit may be terminated in case a permit holder does not use it. They are now going to actively implement this provision.

I am aware there are quite a lot of people who hold a permanent residence permit but do not live in the UK. People like that are now stopped at passport control, then they are locked up and in few hours’ time sent out of the country. They are told that since they do not exercise their right to reside in the country, their residence permit is therefore cancelled in line with respective laws.

That is a new phenomenon. Such measures have never been applied before.

As for the search of dirty moneys and deportation of their owners, I have not heard of a single individual being accused of acquiring a suspicious wealth and obligated to prove it comes from lawful sources.

– What can you say about Roman Abramovich, who, according to the media, did not get his visa extended and was requested to prove his funds were obtained lawfully? Even though the UK authorities were not concerned about his money when he bought Chelsea Football Club.

– There have been so many fake news about Abramovich, that it is hard to comment anything at all as you eventually end up commenting some fake news.

In fact, UK Home Office just told him some extra time is required to review his papers. As a matter of fact, nothing else has happened so far.

By Elena Skvortsova

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