UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Monday faced calls to do more to tackle the “dirty money” floods in the UK as she announced plans to tighten sanctions on Russian Kremlin-linked oligarchs.
The law, which will take effect next week, will “significantly strengthen” the UK’s ability to deal with “Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine,” Trus said. The move was part of an “unprecedented package of coordinated sanctions” that the United Kingdom is preparing with its allies, she added.
Officials said the new powers would allow Britain to act “in step with the United States and other allies to freeze assets and ban travel” in the event that Russian forces invade Ukraine.
Trus said the expansion of the sanctions regime would allow the UK to target “every person and business of economic or strategic importance to the Kremlin”.
Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative MP and chairman of the elected foreign affairs committee, welcomed the announcement, but said his committee first called for a tightening of sanctions against Russia four years ago. “The strongest thing we can do to protect Ukraine is to protect ourselves from the filth and corruption in our city.
In 2018, the government estimated that 100 billion British pounds of “dirty money” had flooded the United Kingdom from countries, including Russia. Two years later, Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee said the City of London had provided “ideal mechanisms” for recycling illicit finances, adding that it had become a laundromat for offshore wealth.
Labor’s shadow minister, David Lamy, backed the move to tighten sanctions, but accused successive Conservative-led governments of failing to act earlier. “For too long, our defense has been disbanded at home while the government looks abroad. . . London is the destination of choice for the world’s kleptocrats. “
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the UK’s move was a “clear attack on business”.
The quake also said the government would revive a long-delayed economic crime bill – designed to stifle the flow of dirty money to the UK – by the end of the year. Tory lawmakers, including government anti-corruption activist John Penrose, criticized Boris Johnson, the UK’s prime minister, last week for delaying the presentation of legislation.
The bill is expected to include a substantial reform of Companies House to combat counterfeit abuse, as well as powers to identify the true owners of offshore companies that own property in the UK, and stricter powers to challenge unexplained wealth.
Trus also said the government would publish a long-delayed review by April 5th of how more than 700 wealthy Russians who have obtained so-called first-class visas allowing them to live in the UK have acquired their wealth. The probe was ordered in 2018 after the attack with a nerve agent in Salisbury, aimed at a former Russian intelligence officer, for which the United Kingdom blamed Moscow.
British officials said the new sanctions powers were needed, as under previous legislation, ministers were only able to target those involved in destabilizing Ukraine.
But analysts and lawyers have denied the allegations. Tom Keating, a finance and security expert at the Royal United Services Institute’s think tank, outlined global regulations on anti-corruption sanctions passed last year.
“It has passed the brink of war in Europe so that the government can consider clearing the Augean stable with dirty Russian money in London, when it could have done so before through sanctions, inexplicable wealth orders or other measures,” he said.
According to the UWO, National Crime Agency investigators may freeze assets and confiscate property in the United Kingdom unless entities can explain how they can legally afford their purchases.
Neil Blandell, head of the corporate crime and investigation team at Macfarlanes, said existing UK sanctions legislation against Russia was not “as narrow as it appears”.
Additional report by Polina Ivanova in Moscow