In the heart of Chelsea, London’s most upmarket area, a washing machine full of counterfeit banknotes on the pavement attracts the attention of passers-by. Installed on 11 March by the very fledgling association Kensington Against Dirty Money (KADM), the work aims to denounce the money laundering that has become commonplace in the British capital. With little regard for the origins of foreign investors’ fortunes, the city has long been prized by Russian oligarchs, earning them the nickname ‘Londongrad’.
But since Vladimir Putin launched his bloody invasion of Ukraine last month, Britain has come under increasing pressure to end such practices by introducing new legislation to promote transparency and tackle corruption. .
In the very select Chelsea neighborhood, KADM activists won’t hold back. Early Monday morning, members of the collective occupied a luxury building in Belgrave Square. It would belong to Oleg Deripaska, one of the seven “key oligarchs of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle”. To get the message across to the public, the organization redesigned the facade of the building with a flag in the colors of Ukraine and anti-war signs.
In a press release addressed to GuardianKADM said it had “liberated” the property in protest against Vladimir Putin’s war. The association said it wanted to make it a “center for helping refugees”. “Other properties belonging to Russian oligarchs would also be targeted, the site specifies” Forbes† For their part, the security forces are said to have stormed the property to force the protesters to withdraw.
But the idea made its way to the government. For example, Michael Gove, the Undersecretary of Housing, said he was “exploring” the way to reuse the properties of sanctioned Russians to house refugees fleeing Ukraine. He nevertheless tempered this announcement by stating that the legal aspect in particular should be carefully studied.
Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has suggested that the British government should house refugees in seized properties before putting them up for sale. “Houses should be places where people live, especially those fleeing persecution, rather than golden bricks used by oligarchs near Putin”he declared.