Jersey should ‘reconsider status for wealthy Russians’

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And a senior source within the civil service has said that advice was received through UK diplomatic back channels that it would be a ‘big mistake’ for Jersey to grant 2(1)e residential status to anyone with ties to the Putin regime. As a result, it is understood that Jersey stepped back from discussions with a number of wealthy Russian applicants.

Speaking at an event at the Jersey Festival of Words on Saturday, Mr Harding said that it was time for Jersey to revisit its decision to have granted residential status to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, adding that ‘even the Swiss’ had recently denied Mr Abramovich an application for citizenship.

Any wealthy Russian seeking residency in Jersey is ‘bound to Vladimir Putin’s regime’, Mr Harding went on to tell the JEP.

‘Russia is a place of legal nihilism,’ he said. ‘It’s not possible to make – and most crucially, keep – a fortune without good relations with the Kremlin and official power. Any wealthy Russian seeking residency in Jersey is bound to Vladimir Putin’s regime. And it’s not a pleasant one. We’ve seen the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, and almost murder of Sergei Skripal, by assassins sent from Moscow. Plus a brazen effort by Russia’s spy agencies to subvert the 2016 US election and western democracy generally. My view is that Jersey needs to think hard about the kind of rich individuals granted residency.’

Constable Chris Taylor is the chairman of the government working group that decides on ‘2(1)(e) applications’ – the scheme that allows wealthy individuals to apply for special residential status in Jersey. With every application, a series of checks is conducted by States officials, who look at criminal records and financial impropriety. Political affiliations, however, are left to ministers to make a judgment on.

If an applicant is deemed to be ‘politically exposed’, then the final decision about their residency would rest with Mr Taylor. When asked whether Mr Taylor factored into his decision-making the provenance of an individual’s wealth or their potential associations to undesirable regimes, a States spokeswoman said that he ‘examines all reports’.

‘Since being given delegated powers by the Chief Minister, Constable Taylor has sought to consult on 2(1)e application with the full HAWAG [Housing and Work Advisory Group] Committee, to include more of his colleagues in decision-making,’ she said. ‘Constable Taylor examines all reports and after due consultation, both politically and with officers, makes a decision.

‘The Constable, Chief Minister, External Relations Minister and his Assistant Minister have all emphasised the importance of protecting Jersey’s reputation. This includes considering the country where applicants’ wealth was acquired, where they have business interests, and the latest developments in these countries.’

However, when pressed on the question of whether there are individuals currently residing in Jersey under the 2(1)(e) scheme who have ties to oppressive regimes, the government press office avoided the question.

‘The government cannot comment on any individuals who may have applied for, been granted, or refused, residency,’ its statement said.

Meanwhile, a senior source within the civil service has said that advice was received earlier this year through diplomatic back channels from at least one prominent UK politician that it would be a ‘big mistake’ for Jersey to grant 2(1)e residential status to anyone with ties to the Putin regime.

Commenting on this allegation, a government spokeswoman said: ‘There are agreed, formal processes in place to make decisions on 2(1)(e) applications. We cannot comment on alleged informal advice, or on an individual application.’

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