UK: Ministry of Justice Won’t Reveal If Govt Will Sanction Oligarch Enabling Law Firms

The Ministry of Justice has declined to reveal whether senior ministers have discussed imposing sanctions on City law firms acting for Russian clients.

Shadow justice secretary Steve Reed MP last week asked lord chancellor Dominic Raab ‘whether he has had discussions with cabinet colleagues on the potential merits of sanctioning law firms working for Russian clients with cases in the English court system’.

Junior justice minister James Cartlidge MP, answering on behalf of the MoJ, replied: ‘Discussions on sanctions remain ongoing, but it is an important aspect of the rule of law that individuals can access legal advice.’

He noted that lawyers advising those subject to sanctions must obtain a licence from the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OSFI) and ‘operate under strict rules’, adding: ‘There are severe penalties for breaches, including fines and potential imprisonment.

‘Many UK law firms are taking a strong stance against the deplorable actions of Russia and those linked to Putin’s regime, including winding down operations in Russia, reviewing client lists and carefully considering new work.’

Reed also asked Raab what discussions he has had with the chancellor of the exchequer or the OFSI ‘on the matter of law firms representing clients that are linked directly or indirectly to the Russian state with pending legal cases in the English judicial system’.

In his response, Cartlidge said MoJ officials are in ‘regular discussions’ with the OFSI and ‘other agencies and regulators to ensure the sanctions regime is adhered to in the legal services market’.

He also referred to Solicitors Regulation Authority guidance which reminds solicitors of their professional obligations and legal requirements.

Cartlidge added: ‘Legal sector regulators are coming together rapidly to look at what can be done to further improve the enforcement of the restrictions under the current sanction and anti-money laundering regime. They are already stepping up compliance monitoring and enforcement activity.’