London: The Dirty Money Capital of the World


The value of money laundering every year is between £23 billion and £57 billion in Britain, one of the largest economies in the world.

The scale at which we see money laundering today started with the ‘Big Bang’ on 27th October 1986. This was the day the stock market was deregulated and London Stock Exchange (LSE) became a private limited company. This move by the government revitalised the UK's stock market by allowing external corporations to enter its member firms, and an automated price quotation was established.


In March, The Financial Times published a lengthy investigation that revealed the involvement of British banks, law firms and even educational institutions in money laundering operations. It said that London had for decades been a safe house for corruption and criminals from all over the world, including the Russians who were welcomed with open hands by the LSE.


Just before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it was estimated that Russian front companies registered in the UK and its Overseas Territories had concealed more than £82 billion of corrupt Russian funds and Russians accused of corruption or having close links to the Kremlin owned an estimated £1.5 billion worth of property in the United Kingdom.


What Makes London the Dirty Money Capital?

One of the attractions of being in London is the network of lawyers, accountants, oligarchs, and above all the English law that can provide a stamp of legitimacy.


Lawyers are on hand to advise complicated transactions, which creates an opaque ownership structure of some of the most valuable UK homes. Roughly 84,000 homes in the UK are owned anonymously. Some £6.7 billion of UK property has been bought with suspicious wealth, according to the report published by Financial Times.


"We've identified 81 law firms, 86 UK banks, and surprisingly 177 UK education institutions that have accepted or moved dirty money from around the world. Russians own our newspapers, their children are in the elite public schools. Their properties are in Mayfair." ~ Financial Times


Has the Government Tackled this Issue Yet?

Lord Callanan, Business Minister said: "We have been clear that the UK is a place for legitimate business only, and to ensure we are free of corrupt elites with suspicious wealth, we need to know who owns what.”


● A new bill was introduced to target Oligarchs using UK property to launder illegal wealth.

● The bill proposes that anyone setting up, running, owning or controlling a company in the UK to verify their identity with Companies House, a government agency, as well as giving Companies House the power to challenge suspicious information.

● Foreign companies that refuse to disclose their true owner could face fines of up to £2,500 per day or up to five years in prison.


 

Edited and Reviewed by Tanish Bagga.

 

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