Call to end the UK’s role as 'a safe haven for corrupt wealth'

By agency reporter
March 16, 2018

In response to the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, the Prime Minister said “we will continue to bring all the capabilities of UK law enforcement to bear against serious criminals and corrupt elites. There is no place for these people or their money in our country.”

Transparency International has identified £4.4 billion worth of UK properties bought with suspicious wealth and more than a fifth of these properties were purchased by Russian individuals. Meanwhile, a quarter of all Tier 1 investment visas granted by the UK between 2008 and 2015, a period in which almost no checks were carried out on source of wealth, were to Russians. This amounts to a minimum of £729 million invested by Russians at a time when there was little scrutiny over where this money came from.

Transparency International UK is calling on the Government to urgently bring in legislation that would require overseas companies who buy UK property to reveal who their real owners are and use the new Unexplained Wealth Orders to better investigate the UK assets of corrupt individuals.

Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK, said, “We share the Prime Minister’s view that there should be no place in the UK for dirty money from overseas, but we are now calling for serious action to make this a reality. Until now corrupt individuals and regimes may well have concluded they can act with impunity in the UK given the ease with which their money has been welcomed into our financial system, property market, luxury goods and other high-end services. We’ve seen the UK become a safe haven for corrupt wealth in which money stolen from people often in the poorest parts of the world is freely spent.”

“More than a fifth of the £4.4 billion worth of UK properties we identified as having been acquired with suspicious wealth was bought by Russians. It is clear that London has routinely been the choice destination for Russians with suspicious wealth to move and they have had little trouble doing so, taking advantage of lax regulation and offshore secrecy. To help combat this, the UK needs to accelerate the much delayed plans for a public register of the real owners of overseas companies owning UK property.”

“Rules around Tier 1 investments have tightened since 2015, but we still don’t know who was granted residency before then and it’s imperative that the UK now investigates which individuals, and with what money, were able to gain UK residency under such poor scrutiny.”

* Transparency International UK http://www.transparency.org.uk/

[Ekk/6]

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