Regulator probes oligarch's charity as government 'hits Putin's inner circle'

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into grant maker the Potanin Foundation, which is run by Russia’s second richest man Vladimir Potanin.

The move has been made amid new sanctions announced by the government designed at “hitting Putin’s inner circle”, including Potanin, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This includes a full asset freeze of Potanin’s interests in the UK.

Potanin is the only member of the grant making charity, which supports work carried out by its sister charity in Russia, the Vladimir Potanin Foundation.

He has controlling rights, including trustee appointment and removal of the Potanin Foundation.

The regulator has confirmed that the investigation has been launched as “individuals subject to UK financial sanctions cannot control a charity”.

While the probe is taking place the charity’s bank account will be restricted and trustees will be unable to withdraw assets. In addition, Potanin’s ability to make decisions at the charity will also be restricted.

According to the charity’s latest accounts it has assets of more than £95m.

The investigation will look at the viability of the charity and how best to safeguard its assets.

The management and administration of the charity by trustees and the role of Potanin in its decision making will also be probed.

It will also look at the relationship between the charity and its Russian based sister charity.

Oligarch Potanin is chairman of Russian conglomerate Interros and is reported to be the 58th richest person in the world, with a net worth of more than £20bn.

"As long as Putin continues his abhorrent assault on Ukraine, we will use sanctions to weaken the Russian war machine," said a government spokesman.

"Today’s sanctions show that nothing and no one is off the table, including Putin’s inner circle."

This is the latest action taken by the Charity Commission in relation to Russian oligarch linked charities.

Earlier this month it appointed interim managers to run two grant making trusts linked to oligarch Dr Viatcheslav Kantor.

In May the regulator also appointed an interim manager to run another Russian oligarch linked charity Genesis Philanthropy Group, after three of its trustees were subject to financial sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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