Biden administration urged to ban UK lawyers who ‘enabled’ oligarchs

A member of Congress has urged the Biden administration to put journey bans on senior British attorneys that acted for rich Russian shoppers towards investigative journalists.

Steve Cohen, a Democratic consultant from Tennessee, has written to Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, urging him to sanction the attorneys for having “enabled malign activities of Russian oligarchs”.

His letter comes because the Biden administration appears to be like to extend its assist for Ukraine in its conflict towards Russia and tighten sanctions towards those that have supported the Russian regime.

Cohen wrote: “Oligarchs who hire lawyers to engage in abusive cases against journalists to silence them cannot exert malign influence in our system . . . the United States must establish deterrents for foreign enablers serving individuals who are undermining democracy.”

The state division didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Cohen singled out a number of attorneys he believed must be topic to bans on visas for journey to the US: Nigel Tait of Carter-Ruck; John Kelly of Harbottle & Lewis; barrister Hugh Tomlinson; Geraldine Proudler of CMS; Keith Schilling of Schillings; and Shlomo Rechtschaffen of SR legislation.

Each of the attorneys is well-known in London authorized circles, with corporations like Carter-Ruck and Schillings having established robust reputations in defamation legislation and fame administration.

Tait, Kelly, Tomlinson and Proudler all labored on latest instances towards the previous Financial Times journalist Catherine Belton or her writer HarperCollins, or each.

Belton and HarperCollins had been sued final yr by a number of Russian oligarchs together with Roman Abramovich over her ebook Putin’s People, which particulars the rise to energy of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin. The lawsuits had been later settled or withdrawn.

Cohen cited Schillings’ work for Malaysian businessman and fugitive Jho Low.

British ministers have expressed concern over the best way during which UK courts are utilized by rich foreigners to launch libel instances. Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, final month set out proposals to restrict any so-called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.

Also in March Bob Seely, the MP for the Isle of Wight, used parliamentary privilege to say “amoral” City attorneys had been teaming up with “Putin’s henchmen” to supply “legalised intimidation”.

A spokesperson for Tomlinson mentioned: “Regulatory rules for lawyers are very strict and work to ensure equal entitlement to independent legal advice. Mr Tomlinson acted properly and in accordance with those rules throughout and has never acted as Mr Cohen suggests.”

Tait’s agency Carter-Ruck mentioned: “The claims made against Carter-Ruck are misconceived and are rejected entirely. In addition to other matters, we are not working for any Russian individuals, companies or entities seeking to challenge, overturn, frustrate or minimise sanctions.”

It added: “We are not acting for, and will not be acting for, any individual, company or entity associated with the Putin regime in any matter or context, whether sanctions-related or otherwise, and will continue to conduct all ‘know your client’ checks in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations, as we have always done.”

Cohen cited Rechtschaffen for his illustration of Israeli-British businessman Walter Soriano, who he alleged was an “enabler” of sure oligarchs together with Abramovich. Rechtschaffen mentioned: “Walter Soriano is not an enabler of any oligarch . . . The English courts have said that the claim against Mr Stedman is not abusive.”

Harbottle & Lewis mentioned the agency had “acted at all time in accordance with its professional and legal obligations, and takes these matters very seriously”.

Schillings mentioned the agency didn’t act for any sanctioned entities and couldn’t touch upon shopper issues. It added that Cohen’s allegations had been “wholly misplaced” and “misinformed”. It mentioned the agency had upheld “the highest traditions of the legal profession”.

Proudler’s agency CMS mentioned it rejected Cohen’s allegations, including that Proudler and the agency had been “compliant with all professional regulations”.

“As we have said since the invasion of Ukraine, CMS is no longer accepting new instructions from Russian based entities or from any individuals with connections to the Russian government.”

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