UK urged to crackdown on oligarchs using London as ‘money laundering playground’
24 Aug 2018

Transparency International has called on the United Kingdom to take action against money laundering involving oligarchs, alongside its pursuit of fresh sanctions against Russia.

This week British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called on the EU to impose further sanctions on Russia, following the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the UK.

He urged the bloc to replicate the US, which has announced it will impose sanctions on Russia over the Skripal affair.

Robert Barrington, Executive Director at Transparency International UK, said: “Mr Hunt rightly points to the rule of law and adherence to international standards as fundamental to global peace and prosperity.

“That also means the UK needs to act against those oligarchs and others who break the rule of law and ignore international standards.
They use the UK as their playground and London property as a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption.”

“If the UK government is serious about Russian sanctions, it is time to stop letting corrupt oligarchs and cronies of the world’s corrupt autocrats launder their money and reputations through the UK and its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.”

Research by Transparency International UK has found £4.4 billion worth of property across the UK bought with suspicious wealth, of which at least a fifth is connected to individuals from Russia.

With police chiefs saying billions are laundered annually through British banks, the UK has stepped up efforts to address the issue of money laundering,

It has sought to strengthen its legal and regulatory framework, launching in recent years the Criminal Finances Act, which enables law enforcement agencies to better recover criminal proceeds.

The Act has introduced Unexplained Wealth Orders which can be used to compel individuals to explain the sources of their wealth, and can be applied to politicians or officials from outside the European Economic Area, or those associated with them.

The government has also moved on its plans to launch a publicly accessible register of the details of the overseas owners of property in the UK.

It recently announced that frontmen who fail to declare the true owners of foreign-owned UK property could be jailed for up to five years.

Experts and anti-corruption campaigners, however, say more can be done to address money laundering and other financial crime matters in the UK.

Critics point to issues such as limited resources and a lack of political will to take on significant cases and super-rich criminals from places such as Russia.

– Irene Madongo

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