Close UK ‘laundry’ for Russian cash: MPs
The UK should impose sanctions on tycoons and government figures close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and apply punitive laws to challenge the “full spectrum of the offensive measures” being used by Russia, according to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.
“The use of London as a base for the corrupt assets of Kremlin-connected individuals is now clearly linked to a wider Russian strategy and has implications for our national security: combating it should be a major UK foreign policy priority,” the MPs’ report claimed.
The “Moscow’s Gold: Russian Corruption in the UK” report says Britain is failing to follow up condemnation of Russian aggression with proper action.
The assets “stored and laundered in London, both directly and indirectly, support President Putin’s campaign to subvert the international rules-based system, undermine our allies, and erode the mutually reinforcing international networks that support UK foreign policy”, the committee reported.
The large number of wealthy Russians in London has earned it the nickname “Londongrad” and led to speculation over the source of that wealth.
The committee said London’s financial sector was like a “laundromat” for Russia’s corrupt assets.
Tasked with examining what action the authorities could take against illegally acquired Russian assets being funnelled into the UK, the committee made several recommendations that it said could bolster money-laundering strategies.
Measures included sanctions against individuals closely connected to hostile governments and linking sanctions relief to changes in the Kremlin’s behaviour. MPs called legislation to establish a register of ownership for overseas firms that could expose individuals who purchase properties through offshore shell companies, disguising identities and the “potentially corrupt” sources of income.
The committee said current British sanctions against Russia could be strengthened in order to put more pressure on Moscow to “change its aggressive and destabilising behaviour”.
“The robust rhetoric from the prime minister following the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter has been undermined by the ‘business as usual’ sign hanging on the UK’s front door,” the report says.
The committee wants action to stop companies which face sanctions in other countries from trading in the UK, closing “loopholes” which allow debt issuance to be used to get around sanctions on individuals close to Putin.
“The proceeds of Kremlin-connected corruption risks signalling that the UK is not serious about confronting the full spectrum of President Putin’s offensive measures,” the influential committee argued.
Kensington. Home to the oligarchs. Picture credit: Pixabay