Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has revealed the first foreign nationals to face asset freezes and travel bans under the UK’s new post-Brexit sanction regime.
In total 49 individuals and organisations involved in human rights violations and abuses in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and North Korea have been designated for sanctions by the government.
They include 25 Russian nationals involved in the death of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, 20 Saudi nationals implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, two high-ranking Myanmar military generals responsible for the persecution of Rohingya Muslims, and two organisations responsible for the operation of gulags in North Korea.
Raab told MPs that the UK’s new independent system of targeted sanctions would act as a “forensic tool” to punish the perpetrators of such crimes rather than the country as a whole.
He continued: “The powers enable us to target a wider network of perpetrators including those who facilitate, insight, promote or support any of these crimes.
“And this extends beyond state officials to non-state actors as well, so if you’re a kleptocrat or an organised criminal you will not be able to launder your blood money in this country.
“Today this government and this House send a very clear message on behalf of the British people that those with blood on their hands – the thugs of despots, the henchmen of dictators – will not be free to waltz into this country to buy up property on the King’s Road, to do their Christmas shopping in Knightsbridge, or frankly to siphon dirty money through British banks or other financial institutions.”
The foreign secretary also revealed that the UK is considering expanding the remit of sanctions to target foreign nationals involved in serious corruption.
Raab’s statement on Monday sets out the details of powers enacted under the 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act.
Under the so-called ‘Magnitsky amendment’ to that act, the Government is now able to independently impose sanctions on people who commit gross human rights violations.
It is modelled on a 2012 United States law by the same name, which targeted Russian officials implicated in the death of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky in a prison in 2009.
Britain could previously only impose sanctions as part of collective UN and EU frameworks and was not able to reveal the names of those banned on human rights grounds, but will be able to do so follow its departure from the bloc.
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said she “strongly welcomed” the new measures, and pressed for cases of corruption to be included within the regime.
Eleanor Langford is a reporter at Civil Service World's sister title PoliticsHome, where a version of this story was first published.