Inconsistent Sanctions Legislation Affecting Legitimate Russian Oligarchs & Businesses Will Find Their Way To International Courts & Tribunals

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There may be avenues open for impacted individuals and companies to reclaim and unfreeze assets, while the West is embarking on a dangerous slippery slope in terms of placing possibility over actuality when imposing legally endorsed punishments.

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

Pity the poor Russian Oligarchs. Deprived of years of living it up in the highlife, as sanctions rain down upon them as so much confetti at a gangster twins wedding party. Pity too the Russian broadcasters, bankers, businessmen and ordinary citizens, sanctioned and deprived because of a renegade, possibly steroid-abusing Russian President who has gone mad and intends to bring back, according to the well-known Russian historian US President Joe Biden, the recreation of the Soviet Union. Pity, and damn them all, for they deserve what they get. There is no mercy for the Russians. Because they are Russian.

Yet pity too, the West, for its denunciation of democratic freedoms, its values of honor, integrity and truth, its slipping into a denial of property ownership laws, where money is accepted and then stolen, where ‘possibilities’ and ‘maybe’s’ and ‘perhapses’ are now all illegal, and punishable. Where due process, the concept of ‘innocence until proven guilty’ and due diligence and auditing of facts are discarded amongst the rubbish as political rhetoric becomes the new master over actual facts.

It is time to assess what the fuck is going on.

Personally, I know very few, if any Oligarchs, (although I’ve met several Billionaires in my time) and trust me, I am sure that amongst all the super yachts, endlessly beautiful (and frequently, spectacularly divorced wives), football club ownerships, grand palaces and ridiculous entitlement, there is not a little thuggery and nastiness amongst them either. It was always thus, and this includes not just the Russian rich, but all absolutely, filthy rich, all around the world. Not all are bent. But many are – otherwise how else can, or do, you acquire so much money? Let’s take a look – according to the ‘World Population Review‘ the United States has the most billionaires in the world with 724. Russia has 117, a number that is presumably falling. I have no truck with the rich who abuse their status, who buy 17 Ferrari’s just because they can, or rich boys blasting themselves into space for a kick, or the annoyingly obnoxious, who seem to think that money is a right, not a responsibility. I don’t care about those guys, and that’s OK, they don’t care about me, it’s a mutual arrangement. But I do care about the honest, and the trustworthy, and the upstanding. Because they have something to offer humanity and take their wealth seriously and use it for the common good. These are the rich, and the potentially holy. So how are we treating the Russian Oligarchs who are rich, but kind?

It appears, on face value, to be not very well indeed. And therein is a problem.

There are Russian Oligarchs – and the less wealthy, yet still packing a few trunks of baubles under the bed, who have been caught under the toxic rash of sanctions that have been introduced. Throwing the baby out with the bath water? These may be individuals needed to help with a later rebalancing of Russia, yet the West is demonizing them. And if not only demonizing them, but threatening them with violence and stealing their assets. It is not a great strategy should their later assistance, knowledge, expertise and indeed finance be later needed to rebuild bridges between East and West, and Moscow, Washington, and the EU.

I have an issue with the terminology of many of the sanctions. Words such as ‘possibly’, ‘maybe’, ‘potentially’ ‘could’ and ‘might’ loom large. These are not legally definitive. None represent facts. An example is the sanctioning of Roman Abramovich, no doubt close to Putin, but who has been sanctioned – among many accusations – because of his share of a Russian steel manufacturer, Evraz. That is a FTSE 100 company and in being so, must have passed all sorts of criteria to list on the London Stock Exchange, where listing conditions are subject to a high level of audited scrutiny.

Evraz has been accused of ‘possibly’ supplying steel to the Russian military for use in tanks that are now bombarding Ukraine. The company denies this, yet Abramovich has been sanctioned because of this accusation – a nonsense because the company itself has not been sanctioned – presumably to protect its global investors, although its share price is taking a hit, and no-one seems to quite know what to do. Consistent? Legally appropriate?

This means that at least part of the sanctions are an Ass.
Abramovich is sanctioned because he owns part of a company that ‘possibly’ supplied steel to the Russian military (denied by the company itself) yet Evraz remains unsanctioned? It’s clearly absurd and doesn’t make any logical sense.

There is, more worryingly, the use of terms, as I have mentioned – of ‘possibly’, ‘perhaps’, ‘could’, ‘maybe’ and ‘potentially’ being used to impose sanctions on Russian Oligarchs, and their businesses and their shareholders, not to mention their employees – and on actions that are several times removed – Abramovich is (just) a shareholder.

Evraz is a business, with a main board of directors (they have all just resigned, but include prominent British businessmen and investors) as well as being monitored by global regulator Ernst & Young, one of the Big Four global accounting firms as their auditors. (EY conveniently pulled out of Russia last week) Sanctions imposed on Abramovich for Evraz ‘possibly’ supplying steel to the Russian military?
All someone had to do was request data from EY about the details in Evraz P&L to confirm or deny this accusation, and especially as the company has denied it. Was that done? No.

There are other, similar cases, where sanctions have been put in place on Russian businessmen without any due process on whether these are actually merited or not, and actions subsequently carried out by either the United States, UK, European Union and elsewhere. This is, in fact, a breach of international law, and additionally violates many of the legal – and democratic – foundations of the West and some of the international protocols already in place to prevent such abuse.

Fighting Back Against Western Sanctions

Affected, honest and hardworking Russian Oligarchs, businessmen, and anyone else caught up in this debacle can take several steps to prove innocence:

Understand the Charges

Examine exactly the sanctions imposed upon you or your business and understand exactly which areas can be argued against. These need to be supported by relevant documentation.

Company Records: Shareholders, Board of Directors, Advisory Board Members, and Consultants

Provide a complete breakdown of all Shareholders and their proxies, senior, decision-making executives, including their biographies, terms of office, renumeration and so on, plus any bonus schemes, including other senior level management consultants and related parties, and with all subsidiary businesses or projects.

Purchase & Ledger

Ensure you have all verified true copies of all detailed P&L dating back the last seven years. Both the US and EU have five-year limits on statue of limitations. Imposition of ‘relations’ are irrelevant, and transactions prior to this are disqualified as per their own company laws.

Company Records: Legal Contracts

Back up the P&L with all copies of related legal contracts;

Company Banking & Finance

Add all related, supporting banking payments and remittance advices
Also provide all company audited material as signed off by both internal and third party auditors.


The sanctions on Russian owned or part-owned businesses, and especially those that included Western company directors, shareholders and other advisors could, if used properly, be used to embarrass and discredit the sanctions themselves and those party to them. That would require credible Russian and international journalistic credentials (remembering that handily, the US and EU have recently barred RT and Sputnik media outlets from the West over the past few days). The inside story of who is who and where, and the influences of the sanctions on Russian businesses could have implications as significant as the Panama Papers and other recent, well-known investment corruption stories.


This is a somewhat out of our remit, however we would advise looking for pertinent legal counsel within the US, EU and UK, and elsewhere as required. Petitioning may also be considered within the World Trade Organization, (although tellingly the US is trying to have Russian expelled) as perhaps a collective complaint endorsed by the Russian Foreign Office, the European Court of Human Rights, and the International Court of Justice. Such actions would need to be activated with the assistance of the Russian Foreign Ministry and other related bodies.


It may not be considered necessary to cry over the woes of Russian Oligarchs, but for the West, and those who wish to uphold the values the West claims to possess ought to be alarmed. Many of the sanctions, especially those that target individuals, specific businesses, and even Russian nationals have already been shown to be arbitrary and imposed without due process or any factual legal basis. Inconsistencies are already apparent. This is wrong. It diminishes, even destroys the West’s legal code, the application of fairness, and the right to appeal.

For the innocent, this is punishment without due process, and of being found guilty by association, of potential, and of ‘possibility’ rather than any factual evidence. This is Autocracy. This is Big Brother. This is, in fact, what Tom Cruise and Stephen Spielberg warned us all about in the 2002 film, ‘Minority Report‘, where people are found guilty and punished for what they ‘might’ do, as opposed to actual misdemeanors. The West’s sanctions upon Russia contain large elements of this premise. It is a slippery slope for the West to be embarking on, and it needs attentions paid to its inconsistences, its railroading of international law by government foreign policy, and its basic abuse of human rights against the innocent. Those affected can build a case. Those not, should start to think about the implications of a Western system that can impose such measures upon the masses without any examination, trial, or recourse. Because today it is the Russians, and Belarussians, but tomorrow – it could be you.

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During these uncertain times and with sanctions in place, our firm helps Russian companies relocate to Asia. We also provide financial and sanctions compliance services to foreign companies operating in Russia. Additionally, we offer market research and advisory services to foreign exporters interested in doing business in Russia as the economy looks to replace Western-sourced products. For assistance please email or visit