(Bloomberg) -- Western nations put Russia’s elite on notice that the symbols of their wealth may eventually be taken away.
Financial penalties on Russia agreed by the U.S., Canada and key European nations on Saturday include a task force to begin “identifying and freezing assets” of sanctioned oligarchs, government officials and companies. That includes yachts, jets, cars and luxury apartments in the West that belong to Russian billionaires, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the measure.
The governments also committed to limit the sale of citizenship -- known as “golden passports” -- to sanctioned Russians, which could allow them to skirt financial penalties, and to prevent their children from attending Western universities, the official said.
Many assets are held in complex ownership structures, meaning it could take months or longer for the task force to find them and take them away. But even the threat of seizure could alarm Russian billionaires, many of whom own professional sports teams, travel in superyachts and private planes, and park their fortunes in London and New York real estate.
The decision is part of a package of sanctions designed to further isolate Russia’s economy and financial system after initial penalties failed to persuade President Vladimir Putin to halt his invasion of Ukraine.
The U.S. and its partners said the task force would ensure that already-announced sanctions on Russian elites were applied to their possessions under Western jurisdictions, and would communicate with other countries to “detect and disrupt the movement of ill-gotten gains, and to deny these individuals the ability to hide their assets in jurisdictions across the world.” They also left the door open to impose financial punishments on more Kremlin-linked oligarchs.
Even as the U.S., the U.K. and other nations sanctioned more than 100 Russian individuals and entities, assets of the elite mostly remained untouched. For example, a jet belonging to billionaire steel magnate Alexey Mordashov flew from the Seychelles area to Moscow last week.
But there are signs that Russian oligarchs are beginning to feel the pressure related to their prized possessions. Roman Abramovich, chairman of Chelsea FC, ceded control of the Premier League soccer club and reigning Champions League champion to the trustees of its charitable foundation.
Abramovich isn’t currently on the U.K.’s list of sanctioned individuals.
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