London– The term “Putin’s oligarchy” has become common in Western media reports and politicians’ speeches, to the extent that US President Joe Biden spoke about the need to fight this “oligarchy” in the union’s address to the US Congress.
What is meant by the oligarchy – in the tradition of the Western media – is rich businessmen and politicians close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who have investments abroad worth tens of billions of dollars.
When talking about “Putin’s oligarchy”, the British capital London appears as one of the biggest financial centers receiving Russian money, and according to many British and international reports, London is one of the biggest centers of money laundering in the world.
This explains the UK government’s rush to issue a number of sanctions against Russian businessmen in Britain, and its threat to the Russian rich, “the owners of dirty money, to follow suit and not give them a chance to hiding,” according to British Foreign. Secretary Liz Truss.
The paradise of smuggled billions
A study by Britain’s Transparency International UK has revealed that the equivalent of $2 billion worth of property is scattered across the UK and that its owners are Russian figures accused of financial crimes or linked to the Kremlin.
According to the same institution, most of these properties are owned by secret companies based outside Britain, adding that the illegal wealth invested in the UK is very high.
The British Foundation estimates that there are suspicions of money laundering around 90,000 properties spread across most British cities, all of which are affiliated with secretive or completely unknown companies, making the task of the British government to trace these properties a difficult one. make.
A study by the same institution shows that companies registered in the United Kingdom and the islands of the British Crown are used to cover the flow of illegal money to various countries of the world.
In its study, the Foundation counted more than 2,189 companies used in money laundering, including 48 Russian companies believed to be dedicated to money laundering and involvement in corruption cases, and the amount of money flowing into these companies is $85 billion.
The researchers who conducted this study found that there are 700 companies based abroad that own real estate in the UK, of which 35 are Russian companies.
In a report – issued by the British Home Office and the Treasury – on money laundering and terrorist financing for the year 2020, the British government admits that between 2% and 5% of Britain’s domestic product is money laundered, according to the United Nations . estimates.
The official report adds that this figure appears realistic given London’s position as the largest financial center in the world. Indeed, the Home Office admits that the money laundered in the country is more than tens of billions of dollars, and there is an estimate from the Financial Crime Control Agency in Britain that talks about 100 billion dollars. It is annually washed in the country.
The same report claimed that the UK received “a significant amount of illicit Russian or Russian personal finance”, which is spent on luxury property, luxury cars, school fees or enrollment at private schools, and donations to charities and cultural organisations. which allows individuals to wash their reputations and not just their money.” ‘, the expression here for the British Home Office.
And in a long article about the newspaper “The Guardian” by the British writer Olivier Boloh – who has written many books about corruption in Britain, and money laundering in London in particular – he confirms that the process of getting illegal Russian money into the country identifies a complex process, and is not always advanced.
Says the author of the book “How big is corruption in Britain?” (How corrupt Britain is) The Russian Federal Statistics Service says that Russian investors own financial assets in the UK worth 3.5 billion dollars, and in contrast, the British Statistics Office says that the total Russian investments (whether financial or through projects and companies) amount to to about 30 billion dollars.
These amounts are “simple amounts” from the author’s point of view, who says that the investments coming from Finland exceed them by about 4 times, before he lays his hand on the source of the disease, which is the Russian money transferred to other countries, especially to the tax haven before it reaches Britain, This money is not counted as Russian. Since the majority of the money leaves Russia through tax havens, the official figures do not provide the true picture of the illegal Russian money in the country.
The British author says that over the past decade a total of $75 billion has flowed from Russia to the islands and territories of the British Crown, some of which are tax havens, and this amount is about 7 times more than the amount that came in directly. the United Kingdom.
The author emphasizes that the tax haven and the British financial system allow any Russian official “who has a fortune that exceeds his salary to hide his identity and spend his money in London without anyone realizing that he is a fraud.”
French economist Thomas Piketty, director of studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sociale Sciences (EHESS), says the total wealth of Russians held abroad by tax havens is estimated at about $800 billion, and by few people. Their number exceeds hundreds, and the French scientist confirms that they consider London one of their favorite cities to live and spend their money, concluding with a significant phrase: “Post-communism has become the worst ally of wild capitalism. “