31 Jul 2020
Political parties should adopt anti-money laundering practices to protect democracy, the elections watchdog has said in the wake of the Russia report.
Parties are exempt from the regime that requires suspicious transactions of more than £10,000 to be reported to the National Crime Agency.
More than £1 billion has been raised by parties and political campaigns since those rules were introduced in 2002. The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats benefited from more than £900 million of that money.
Under the rules bankers, accountants, lawyers, estate agents, luxury goods retailers and art dealers have to report any transaction of more than £10,000 that raises concerns. Political parties can make voluntary “suspicious activity reports” but The Times understands that none has done so.
Last week the intelligence and security committee’s report on Russian influence on British politics said “several members of the Russian elite . . . are identified as being involved with charitable and/or political organisations in the UK, having donated to political parties with a public profile which positions them to assist Russian influence operations”.
Conservative Party finances have been boosted by donors with Russian connections. Lubov Chernukhin, 48, whose husband is a former deputy finance minister in Moscow, has given £1.7 million.
Alexander Temerko, 53, a Conservative activist and former Russian oil executive, has also donated large sums and is a director of Aquind, whose controlling shareholder has been anonymised at Companies House, which has given the party more than £240,000.
Ms Chernukhin and Mr Temerko are British citizens and their donations are legal but they would be considered “politically exposed persons” because of their own or family links to Russia.
The Electoral Commission said that enhanced checks should be made part of the rules on donations.
By Sean O’Neill and George Greenwood, The Times, 30 July 2020
Read more at The Times
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