varoufakis89_ Craig MercerMB MediaGetty Images_chelsea fc abramovich Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

Why Stop at the Russian Oligarchs?

At a time when Russian bombs are destroying Ukrainian cities, there is good reason to focus on the oligarchs supporting the Kremlin. But do American multi-billionaires and Saudi princes enjoy less political clout, stash less money abroad, and use their influence any better?

ATHENS – No sooner had Roman Abramovich, newly targeted by the United Kingdom’s sanctions on Russian oligarchs, announced that he was selling Chelsea Football Club than the feeding frenzy began. An athletics icon, City grandees, and even a respected Times columnist, each representing different American multi-billionaires, descended on London in a race to buy the club. Meanwhile, a host of London properties belonging to Russian oligarchs entered a long-overdue process of liquidation. What took so long?

To put it bluntly: the West’s legal foundations.

True, Western leaders encouraged the inflows. David Cameron, then UK Prime Minister, appealed in 2011 to a Moscow audience to “invest” in Britain. But it wasn’t hard to convince the oligarchs to flood London with their money. Western countries’ legislation prevents governments and the public not only from disturbing wealth stored in their jurisdictions but also from even knowing where and how much of it there is. Why else would countless corporations register in the US state of Delaware, using post office box addresses that guarantee their owners anonymity?

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