The UK has reportedly banned Russian businessman Mikhail Fridman from paying for a personal driver, citing the availability of public transport as an alternative option. Lawyers representing Fridman have stated that he is fighting for the right to cover the costs of maintaining his London mansion and making payments to his staff. This development comes after Fridman was sanctioned by the UK, EU, Canada, and the US.
According to lawyer Rachel Barnes, the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) has rejected Fridman’s request to make monthly payments of £30,000 ($36,500) for the upkeep of Athlone House, a Victorian mansion he purchased in 2015. Government lawyer Malcolm Birdling argued against allowing staff payments, claiming that it would enable Fridman to maintain his pre-sanction lifestyle.
Mikhail Fridman, who holds Russian and Israeli citizenship, had been residing in London until recently. In early October, he relocated to Israel, describing life under sanctions in the UK as “impossible.” However, his move coincided with a major attack on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, prompting Fridman to flee to Moscow. He expressed his intention to eventually return to Israel and settle there permanently once the situation calms down.
Fridman, the founder of Russia’s largest privately owned lender Alfa Bank, has been subjected to sanctions due to his alleged involvement in activities that undermine the security or human rights of Ukraine. These sanctions restrict his financial transactions and ability to conduct business in the countries that have imposed them.
The withholding of permission for Fridman to pay for a personal driver reflects the stringent measures imposed on individuals under sanctions. These measures aim to limit their access to resources and prevent them from enjoying the privileges associated with their pre-sanction status.
The case of Fridman highlights the far-reaching impact of sanctions on the personal and professional lives of individuals targeted by them. In his case, the restriction on staff payments for his London property signifies the challenges faced by individuals who find themselves in similar circumstances.
Sanctions are commonly used as a diplomatic tool to exert pressure on states or individuals, with the aim of altering their behavior or penalizing them for perceived wrongdoing. However, their impact extends beyond the intended targets, affecting the lives of those associated with the sanctioned individuals or entities.
While the grounds for imposing sanctions may be justified for reasons of national security or international law, it is important to consider the potential unintended consequences. Measures that restrict an individual’s ability to pay for essential services or maintain their properties can have severe repercussions on their livelihoods and well-being.
As the case of Mikhail Fridman unfolds, it brings to light the complex and multifaceted nature of sanctions and their impact on individuals. The outcome of Fridman’s fight for the right to pay for his mansion’s upkeep and staff payments will shed light on the extent to which sanctioned individuals can assert their rights and maintain a semblance of normalcy in their lives. It also prompts a broader conversation on the efficacy and unintended consequences of sanctions as a tool of international diplomacy.