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UK pledges that Overseas Territories will ensure ‘Putin’s oligarchs have nowhere to hide’

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Russian airlines face looming European sanctions including a ban on purchases of aircraft, spare parts, or related equipment

Liz Truss, the UK Foreign Secretary, has assured British MPs that British Overseas Territories are doing everything they can to ensure that “Putin’s oligarchs have nowhere to hide”.

Ms Truss made the comment in response to a question from a Plaid Cymru MP who told the House of Commons that 713 Russian aircraft are on the Bermuda Aircraft Registry.

Liz Savile Roberts said: “International sanctions now include Russia’s civilian aircraft fleet. The UK has a part to play in their enforcement because, as of yesterday, 713 leased Russian aircraft are registered in Bermuda, a British overseas territory.

“For far too long, weak UK regulation of ‘Londongrad’ and tax haven overseas territories has enabled Putin’s regime. What discussions has the Right Hon Lady had with the British overseas territories to ensure the immediate and effective implementation of UK sanctions against Russia?”

Mr Truss replied: “We are working closely with the overseas territories to make sure that Putin’s oligarchs have nowhere to hide.”

The exchange in the House of Commons came after the Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority last night said that it and other Government officials are reviewing all sanctions levied on Russia to ensure that Bermuda is in full compliance.

In the statement, the BCAA confirmed a significant number of the 900-plus aircraft currently registered with Bermuda are utilised by commercial Russian air operators.

The authority said they understood this affiliation with the aggressor nation in the current Russia-Ukraine conflict might cause concern.

Rena Lalgie, the Governor, and other government officials are reviewing all sanctions concerning Russian-owned aircraft to ensure that the Authority is following them.

Before coming to Bermuda in 2020, Ms Lalgie spent four years at the UK Treasury as the director of the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation

The BCAA said: “It should be made clear the Authority within the framework of its aviation legislation is continuing to carefully review all sanctions in coordination with other stakeholders, including the Governor of Bermuda and the Ministry of Transport for the Government of Bermuda.

“The BCAA will ensure that the Authority and the relevant entities which it regulates are in full compliance with any applicable sanctions now and moving forward.”

The press release said Bermuda is regulated by the United Kingdom’s Department for Transport and operates as part of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) for regulation and safety oversight of aviation in Bermuda and of all the aircraft on the Bermuda Aircraft Registry.

“BCAA operates within a complex safety network of leasing companies and commercial operators, which are governed by international laws.

“As a regulator, the BCAA is obligated to oversee safe travel.”

Bermuda has the largest offshore aircraft registry, established in 1931 and today with more than 850 registrations under the Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority, with offices earmarked for Moscow and Shanghai.

The 700 Russian aircraft may be impacted by sanctions announced by the EU on Sunday — sanctions that could terminate insurance agreements, grounding affected aircraft.

Russian airlines also face looming European sanctions that include a ban on purchases of aircraft, spare parts or related equipment.

Russian carriers were already anticipating the February delivery of passenger jets with Bermuda registrations under a lease arrangement.

The EU sanctions come as global aviation publication FlightGlobal is reported that S7 Airlines, a large operator of leased Airbus single-aisle models, has some 70 Bermuda-registered jets.

Russian-owned ships and super yachts may also fall victim to sanctions regimes.

It is not known how many Russian-owned ships are on the Bermuda shipping registry.

The private motor yacht Eclipse arriving in Bermuda waters several years ago. It is owned by Russian tycoon and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich. (File photo by David Skinner)

However, Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, reputed to be one of richest men in Russia, registered his luxury 530-foot superyacht Eclipse in Bermuda. One of the largest superyachts in the world, it spent several months in Hamilton in 2013 and returned in 2014.

Also said to be registered in Bermuda is Super Yacht A, owned by Andriy Melichenko, who is reported to dominate the coal industry in Russia. The eight-deck, 465-foot long yacht was said to have cost $425 million to build.

Many other Russian-owned superyachts are registered in the Cayman Islands.

Britain has warned that Russian vessels will be banned from British ports.

Questions put to the Bermuda Shipping and Maritime Authority had not yet been answered by news time last night.

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Published March 01, 2022 at 7:56 am (Updated March 04, 2022 at 11:27 am)

UK pledges that Overseas Territories will ensure ‘Putin’s oligarchs have nowhere to hide’

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