Britain’s Foreign Affairs Committee released a report today (May 21) detailing how the UK has been a major beneficiary of Russian money since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and that cash is hidden in British assets and laundered through financial institutions in London.
In a hard-hitting report titled Moscow’s Gold: Russian Corruption in the UK, the committee said the government was failing to follow through on the prime minister’s “robust rhetoric” in the wake of the Skripals’ poisoning. “The scale of damage that this ‘dirty money’ can do to UK foreign policy interests dwarfs the benefit of Russian transaction in the City,” said member of parliament (MP) and chair of the committee Tom Tugendhat in a statement. “There is no excuse for the UK to turn a blind eye as President Putin’s kleptocrats and human rights abusers use money laundered through London to corrupt our friends, weaken our alliances, and erode faith in our institutions.”
The report highlighted how the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the British city of Salisbury in March initially led to seemingly tough steps taken against Moscow, such as a tit-for-tat expulsion of Russian diplomats from Western countries and vice versa. However, “Putin and his allies have been able to continue ‘business as usual’ by hiding and laundering their corrupt assets in London.” The MPs said that the Kremlin is able to use these funds to directly and indirectly support “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 issued a number of recommendations in tackling the issue, including extending sanctions to target more people who are found to be closely linked to the Russian president’s regime, promoting transparency of corporate ownerships, as well as closing any loopholes that allow debt issuance to bypass sanctions.
“The ease with which the Russian government was able to raise funds in London despite the strong measures that the government took in the wake of the Salisbury attack raises serious questions about the government’s commitment to combating Russian state aggression,” the report said. The committee also said the flotation of En+, a Russian energy company controlled by oligarch Oleg Deripaska on the London Stock Exchange last year, was also an example of “the contradictions inherent in UK government policy towards Russia”.
“We call on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to set out a coherent strategy on Russia that clearly links together the diplomatic, military and financial tools that the UK can use to counter Russian state aggression.”
In the meantime, the Chelsea football club owner, Roman Abramovich, appears to have been caught up in a government crackdown on wealthy investors coming to the UK after the Salisbury poisoning, further increasing tensions between Britain and Russia.Downing Street confirmed it was taking a fresh look at tier 1 visas, the type the Russian oligarch is understood to hold, which allow anyone who invests more than £2m in the British economy to stay for 40 months.
Responding to reports of the delay to Abramovich’s visa, Moscow claimed Russian businesses often encountered “unfair and unfriendly” actions when applying to come to the UK.
Source The Guardian, BBC, UK Parliament