An expert believes Britain is the “world leader” in hiding dirty money

A leading sanctions expert told The Independent that Britain remains the “world leader” in hiding dirty money despite recent attempts to curb the oligarchs’ illegal wealth.

Bill Browder urged Boris Johnson’s government to deal with the “activated community” of London lawyers and accountants suspected of helping kleptocrats. [لصوص نافذين] From Russia and elsewhere to protect their assets.

The man who is a critic of Vladimir Putin – who campaigned for Magnitsky sanctions against human rights violators like many Western governments – said the British government should now oblige the so-called empowered to share more information with the authorities.

“The UK remains the world leader in attracting dirty money,” he said. Browder said. “The UK has the opportunity to plug a large, massive loophole that is luring everyone to London for money laundering.”

He added: “The community of enablers in London is more than anywhere else in the world. Oligarchs work with the best lawyers and accountants – and empowerers must be legally obliged to provide information about those being investigated.”

The government’s swiftly drafted bill on economic crime was passed in parliament last month in an effort to get rid of illegally acquired wealth. This has created a new register that requires foreign companies to disclose the name of the “beneficial owner” of property held in the UK.

But Mr. Browder and other anti-corruption activists say the legislation contains many “holes”, which still allow the assets of kleptocrats to hide their assets in complex structures such as shell companies and trusts.

Home Affairs Minister Priti Patel has promised an economic crime bill that would be a second “follow-up” and has promised to take steps to reform Corporate House. [“سجل الشركات”]. She also made a vague promise that the bill would lead to more information sharing about “alleged money laundering.”

Mr. Browder said the second bill should place clear obligations on “enablers” to share information about suspected illegal wealth, as well as impose severe criminal penalties for failure to do so.

“Right now there is only the reward and there is no risk. If they run the risk of paying fines or even going to jail, they probably will not help,” he added. [أوليغارشيين] They will probably provide information. “

Paul Scully, business secretary, had earlier said the second economic crime bill would be introduced “early” in the next parliamentary session, and The Independent has learned that it is likely to be included in the Queen’s speech on May 10.

While the government could use existing legislation to impose sanctions on hundreds of people identified as close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, activists say the authorities do not have enough investigative powers to get rid of the dirty money spent by London and the UK ‘s foreign flow does not flow. tax haven ..

Anti-corruption experts say oligarchs could still use shell companies – often set up in UK-controlled crown and overseas territories – to evade authorities in the absence of strong new measures in the next bill.

Susan Hawley, executive director of Spotlight on Corruption, wants to reform Corporate House to help promote transparency. It would like to give this institution new powers to proactively launch investigations, rather than act as a registrar.

Ms Hawley said: “We are concerned that the government is losing interest in dealing with this matter properly. We urgently need a major overhaul to prepare the Corporate House so that investigators can investigate the possibility of money laundering.”

The campaign group also had Mr. Browder’s call for suppression of the so-called enablers in the second crime bill supported. Ms Hawley said: “It would really be a missed opportunity if there is no consideration of how to oversee the legal and accounting sectors when it comes to money laundering investigations.”

Labor MP Margaret Hodge argued that the government should use the planned legislation to strengthen the power of law enforcement agencies, as well as to deal with those who help oligarchs protect their money.

“The enablers that facilitate it should also be addressed,” she told The Independent. “It should be categorized as a criminal offense. That’s the only way to stop it.”

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Mr. Browder called Mr. Johnson’s government warned not to reject his promise to curb the influx of dirty money. He said: “I can not stand these statements that disappear without a trace. [تتناثر في الهواء] Because laws and institutions do not work. I’m worried that interest could evaporate. “

A government spokesman said the first Economic Crimes Bill had allowed the government to “move faster on penalties, prevent criminals from laundering their money on property in the UK, and increase liability for unnecessary wealth”. [طلبات تفسير لمصادر الثروة المستخدمة لشراء العقارات في المملكة المتحدة]”.

Asked about plans for the second bill, the spokesman said it would “be part of a broader package of legislative proposals to address illegal funding that will be submitted to Parliament in the coming months, including the reform of the Corporate House “.

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