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UK Speeding Up Crackdown on Russian Businessmen – Reports

© REUTERS / Toby MelvilleCity workers walk past the Bank of England in the City of London, Britain, March 29, 2016.
City workers walk past the Bank of England in the City of London, Britain, March 29, 2016. - Sputnik International
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Earlier, the US Treasury announced sanctions against major Russian businessmen with alleged ties to the Kremlin, effectively banning US companies from dealing with them. The hardest blow was delivered to aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska.

The UK National Crime Agency (NCA) is currently investigating between 120 and 140 cases under the unexplained wealth order (UWO) mechanism, with a major portion of them being Russian businessmen or those with ties to Moscow, the Sunday Times reported, citing various sources within the agency and the UK government.

Donald Toon, the NCA's director of economic and cyber-crime, has claimed that the agency is focusing on the crimes themselves, not on the nationality of possible violators of the law. An anonymous source in the UK government has told the Times that a major portion of businessmen currently being reviewed are "Russian or Russian-linked." The source also noted that the Salisbury incident "accelerated" the investigations into them.

READ MORE: Russian Billionaire Abramovich Gets Israeli Passport Amid UK Visa Issue — Media

The information surfaced not long after the US treasury announced a list of Russian businessmen that were banned from operating on the US market, preventing American companies from having business ties with them and their companies. However, Toon claimed that the "NCA activities" are not determined by the US.

Another anonymous source in the UK government revealed that officials were instructed to "keep mouths shut" about the crackdown or be ready "to be sued." According to the source, legal countermeasures are expected by prominent Russians based in the UK.

Relations between the UK and Russia have been in a downward spiral following the Salisbury incident in which former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were seriously poisoned. The UK declared that the substance used in the attack is similar to the Novichok-class of nerve agents developed in the Soviet Union.

READ MORE: Abramovich Puts Chelsea Stadium Project on Ice, Might Withdraw UK Visa Request

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has accused Russia of organizing the attack, although the official investigation into the incident is yet to be concluded. The UK went on to expel 23 Russian diplomats as a punitive measure. A number of countries have supported the UK's claims and have together expelled more than 150 Russian diplomats.

The Russian side has denied all the accusations and suggested undertaking a joint investigation. However, the request has been ignored by the British side.

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