openDemocracy: UK government allowed Yevgeny Prigozhin, who fell under sanctions, to circumvent these very sanctions

In 2021, the UK Treasury issued a special license to the British law firm Discreet Law, which allowed the owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, to circumvent sanctions and file a libel suit against the founder of the project, Eliot Higgins. This is reported by openDemocracy, citing emails.

The UK imposed sanctions on Prigozhin in 2020 to prevent anyone from doing business with him. But as early as next year, the authors of the investigation write, the British Treasury’s Office of Financial Sanctions (OFSI) issued numerous Discreet Law licenses and also corresponded regularly with Prigozhin’s lawyers.

Sanctions prevented Prigozhin from traveling to London, but the British authorities allowed his lawyers to visit St. Petersburg to meet with Russian lawyers for Wagner PMC founder from Capital Legal Services. In one of the letters cited by openDemocracy, the Treasury specifically asked British lawyers if they had actually spent more than £3,600 on a business class flight to and from St. Petersburg.

The investigation showed that in September 2021, Prigozhin paid the lawyers by transferring money from the Russian Sberbank to HSBC in the UK, but HSBC refused to transfer the payment to NatWest, a bank serving Discreet Law, due to sanctions against the businessman. By October, the HSBC bank, the authors of the investigation note, “confirmed the legitimacy of the payment” and transferred the money.

The Prigozhin v. Higgins case fell apart shortly after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine – in March 2022, Discreet Law lawyers refused to work with Prigozhin, and the case was dropped in May.

Eliot Higgins accused the UK Treasury’s OSFI of “engaging in a scheme to undermine the very sanctions it is responsible for regulating.”

The UK government declined to comment on “individual cases”. Discreet Law did not answer questions from reporters.

In 2021, the UK Treasury was headed by Rishi Sunak, the current Prime Minister of the UK.

Russian businessmen love to sue in London. However, local lawyers no longer want to work with them. Prigozhin tried to sue Bellingcat for “defamation”, but lawyers dropped his case due to reputational risks

Russian businessmen love to sue in London. However, local lawyers no longer want to work with them. Prigozhin tried to sue Bellingcat for “defamation”, but lawyers dropped his case due to reputational risks

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J. A. Allen

Author, blogger, freelance writer. Hater of spiders. Drinker of wine. Mother of hellions.

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