National | Russia

Russian oligarch with marae connection may be on NZ's new sanctions list

The government will introduce a bill this week that will seek to impose sanctions on Russia, following the invasion of Ukraine two weeks ago, which could have an impact on some Northland Māori.

The sanctions could potentially be applied to Russian steel oligarch Alexander Abramov who owns the luxury Helena Bay Lodge, north of Whangārei, although he is not on an initial list proposed by the government. Abramov has an estimated personal wealth of about $11 billion, according to Bloomberg’s billionaires' index.

The lodge sits 5km from Mōkau Marae, and his company, Helena Bay Holdings assisted with the rebuild of the marae after it was destroyed by fire in 2015.

Te Ao Māori News understands Helena Bay Lodge employs a number of locals from the area between Whananaki and Whangaruru. The cheapest suites during the summer peak at the lodge can be rented for $3,280 per night.

Alexander Abramov is thought to be one of few Russian oligarchs with active interests in Aotearoa.
Photo/Wikipedia Creative Commons by Leonrid

"A bill of this nature has never been brought to our parliament before but it is essential given Russia’s vetoing of sanctions through the UN,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

The bill will allow new sanctions to be applied on people, companies, services related to those in Russia who are responsible for or associated with the invasion.

“It will target those of economic or strategic relevance to Russia including oligarchs,” the prime minister said.

A public register will be set up to list every individual entity, asset, or service that is sanctioned. The sanctions will freeze assets that are in New Zealand, while also preventing those who are sanctioned from moving assets to New Zealand, or using the New Zealand financial system to get around sanctions imposed by other countries.

Sanctions can apply to trade, financial institutions and territory, including stopping the likes of Russian superyachts and aircraft from entering New Zealand waters or airspace.

Ardern said the bill will be specific to the Russian invasion of Ukraine but it can be applied further.

Target sanctions required

“It does importantly allow for sanctions to be imposed against other states, which have been complicit with Russia's illegal actions, such as Belarus.”

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said as a small country that is a supporter of the multilateral system to uphold peace and security New Zealand has historically supported sanctions through the United Nations system.

“However, with Russia using its veto as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to prevent any action, even in the face of overwhelming opposition to Russia’s war, New Zealand has decided that a targeted sanctions bill is required to show our condemnation in the strongest possible terms.

“New Zealand continues to call on Russia to do what is right and immediately cease military operations in Ukraine and permanently withdraw to avoid a catastrophic loss of innocent life.”

Seven ministers will be allocated powers to act including Ardern, DeputyPrime Minister Grant Robertson, Mahuta, Trade and ExportMinistgfer  Damien O’Connor, Attorney General David Parker, GCSB and NZSIS Minister Andrew Little, Justice and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi. The group of ministers will convene as soon as possible after passing the legislation to sign off the first group of sanctions.

Key Russians to be banned

The government today also released a list of Russians subject to a travel ban, including Russian government officials, and others involved in the invasion of Ukraine.

The list includes Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishutin, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu plus former president Dmitry Medvedev.

Belarussian government and military officials are also included in their list, following the involvement of that country in the invasion by Russian forces.

Other names featured on the list are considered close confidants and friends of Putin, such as oligarch Boris Rotenberg, who co-owns the largest gas pipeline and electrical power supply lines company in Russia.