Sheikh Mansour Manchester CityGetty Images

Answers demanded from UK government over Man City owner Sheikh Mansour's alleged links to Russian oligarchs

Lawyers representing a Ukrainian activist have written to foreign secretary James Cleverly, asking whether investigations have been carried out to determine if United Arab Emirates' deputy prime minister, Mansour, should be identified as a 'designated person' subject to financial sanctions under the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.

The activist has called for an investigation into whether Man City owner Sheikh Mansour has helped Russian oligarchs, who are currently under government sanctions following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in moving their assets to the UAE.

Last week, the UK government said more than 1,800 people had sanctions imposed under the regulations, with more than 1,600 of those sanctioned since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 - one of which included former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who had his assets frozen as he sought to sell the club.

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An initial letter about Mansour was sent to Cleverly in September 2022 by lawyers and now a new letter on behalf of the Ukrainian activist, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from Russia, has been sent.

The new letter states: “Sheikh Mansour is a particularly high-profile individual and as the owner of one of the United Kingdom’s most celebrated football clubs, is a person who ought to be subject to reasonable scrutiny by the UK Government.

“For the avoidance of doubt, we make no allegations as to any particular conduct of Sheikh Mansour. Nevertheless, in light of the wealth of evidence in the public domain tending to link Sheikh Mansour with the accommodation of wealthy Russians in the UAE, we respectfully suggest that there is a prima facie basis for the UK government to conduct an investigation."

According to reports, the foreign secretary can only designate a person if he has reasonable grounds to suspect an individual is an 'involved person' in destabilising Ukraine. Involvement is defined as someone who is response for, engages in, provides support for, or promotes any policy or action which destabilises Ukraine or undermines or threatens its territorial integrity.

If Sheikh Mansour were designated as an individual subject to government regulations, it would disqualify him as an owner under the Premier League's updated rules on owners and directors, which were published in March 2023.

This letter has been sent as the UAE prepares to host the Cop28 climate change conference between November 30 and December 12. It adds that Sheikh Mansour is likely to play a "visible role" at the event.

The letter continues: “The bloodshed caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues. You are asked to note that, as set out in our earlier correspondence, notwithstanding the robust nature of the British response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, many Russian oligarchs appear to have found a home for their wealth in the United Arab Emirates, with Dubai and Abu Dhabi apparently being particularly attractive to those individuals.

“In light of the global attention which will be focused on both the UAE and Sheikh Mansour at the forthcoming Cop28 event, we write to you to enquire what steps you have taken further to our request of September 30, 2022 to open an investigation into the conduct of Sheikh Mansour.

“You may recollect that we invited the UK government to consider whether or not the conduct of Sheikh Mansour is such that he is a suitable person to be designated, pursuant to the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. In the circumstances, it is critical that the UK Government takes all necessary steps consistent with its statutory and international obligations.”

In response to this, a spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said: “The UK has stepped up diplomatic engagement with the UAE to address Russian attempts to evade sanctions, and we’ve since seen positive progress such as their recent delicensing of Russia’s MTS Bank.

“We will not tolerate attempts to help Russian oligarchs hide their assets in complex financial networks and in April introduced a sanctions package to crack down on their enablers.”

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