UK Leasing

UK confiscates private jet as it investigates possible links with Russia

British officials were investigating on Wednesday possible links between Russian billionaire Eugene Shvidler and a private jet seized by authorities after it landed in the UK, as part of a new toughening of the Russian sanctions regime.

The decision to block the plane’s departure came after the UK government announced sweeping powers to detain any aircraft in the UK deemed to have links to Russian nationals. It also made it a criminal offense for any aircraft with links to Russia to enter British airspace.

The Department for Transport said the plane would be grounded while officials “investigate further” to determine if it falls under the new legislation. An official said authorities believed the plane was related to Shvidler and were examining its ownership structure.

The official said the jet could be free to depart as early as Thursday, depending on what investigators conclude. The plane is registered in Luxembourg and is operated by Global Jet, a private jet charter and leasing company. Global Jet did not respond to a request for comment.

The apparent toughening of British aviation sanctions against Russia came after the government came under increasing criticism for its failure to align with US and EU sanctions regimes.

The latest sanctions included a ban on any aircraft owned, chartered or operated “by anyone connected with Russia”, according to the government. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the move would “inflict more economic pain on Russia and those close to the Kremlin.”

Shvidler is known for his close business ties with Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich. Shvidler is a non-executive director and shareholder of Evraz, the London-listed steel company controlled by Abramovich. None of them are subject to British sanctions.

Shares of Evraz, whose primary listing is in London, jumped more than 30% on Wednesday after the company sought to reassure investors about its sanctions exposure.

Evraz said in a stock filing that he does not consider himself an entity owned by, or acting on behalf of or at the direction of anyone connected with Russia and therefore subject to such legislation.

The filing added that the company could not be certain that major shareholders, including Abramovich, were “related to Russia.”

Abramovich in February took direct control of his 28.6% stake in Evraz, which he previously held through Greenleas International Holdings, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The FT sought comment from Shvidler through Evraz, who declined to comment on “shareholder issues”.

The plane, a Bombardier Global Express long-haul business jet, is being held at Farnborough, a luxury private jet airport in south-west London. The airport operator said the plane had arrived from New Jersey with clearance from UK air traffic control and was in ‘constant dialogue’ with the government to ensure penalties were enforced .