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Abramovich ally Shvidler loses appeal over UK sanctions

Published 27/02/2024, 10:09
Updated 27/02/2024, 16:56
© Reuters.

By Sam Tobin

LONDON (Reuters) -A billionaire ally of Russian businessman Roman Abramovich on Tuesday lost his bid to overturn British sanctions, in a ruling which maintains the UK's 100% record of defending sanctions challenges and makes it difficult for other appeals to succeed.

Oil tycoon Eugene Shvidler, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes magazine at $1.6 billion, was sanctioned in March 2022 following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Shvidler was sanctioned on the grounds of his association with former Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, who Britain says has benefitted financially from supporting the Russian government.

Abramovich has previously said it is false to suggest he benefitted by supporting the Russian government.

Britain also cited Shvidler's position as a director of London-listed Russian steel producer Evraz and role at Russian oil company Sibneft, sold by Abramovich in 2005, as evidence he had obtained a financial benefit from Abramovich.

Lawyers for Shvidler – a dual British-U.S. citizen – argued Britain was wrong to impose sanctions just because of his relationship with Abramovich.

He lost his initial challenge to the sanctions at London's High Court last year and went to the Court of Appeal to overturn that decision, arguing he was targeted after Grant Shapps, UK transport secretary at the time, put "pressure" on then-foreign secretary, Liz Truss, to impose sanctions.

They also cited the impact of sanctions, arguing that they had destroyed Shvidler's ability to conduct his business and disrupted his and his family's lives.

But his appeal was dismissed on Tuesday, with Judge Rabinder Singh stating that "sanctions often have to be severe and open-ended if they are to be effective".

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'GREEN LIGHT' FOR FURTHER SANCTIONS

David Savage, a partner at law firm HFW, said the ruling would prompt "a few sighs of relief in Whitehall" as a defeat in Shvidler's case could have led to further challenges.

"Instead, the lid remains firmly on Pandora's Box, at least for now," he said in a statement.

Shvidler's lawyers said in a statement that he intends to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court as the Court of Appeal's ruling makes it "virtually impossible" for anyone subject to British sanctions to bring a successful challenge.

Britain's Foreign Office, which has overseen the sanctioning of more than 1,700 individuals or entities since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, welcomed the judgment.

Alexa Magee, a legal researcher at campaign group Spotlight on Corruption, said the government's victory had given it "the green light to pursue sanctions with even greater ambition".

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