Tory MPs urge Johnson to revive bill tackling UK’s dirty money

Tory MPs have called on Boris Johnson to revive a long-awaited law on economic crime – designed to crack down on the flow of dirty money to Britain – after legislation was hit by further delays.

John Penrose, the government’s champion of corruption, said on Friday that the prime minister should speed up the bill to send a signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine.

“London’s financial markets are a huge economic asset, but they are also magnets of dirty cash, and with Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, Putin will look for signs of weakness, showing that we are not serious about the threats to sanction his. oligarchs, “he said.

“Legislation to close all these gaps.

The bill was expected to include a crucial reform of Companies House to crack down on the abuse of shell companies as well as powers to expose the real owners of offshore companies that own British property, and tougher powers to challenge the inexplicable wealth of kleptocrats.

The reforms have gained cross-party support due to widespread concerns about the £ 100 billion in dirty money that the National Crime Agency has estimated has been channeled through Britain from countries including Russia, and the rise in fraud related to Covid-19 state aid.

A 2020 government report said “corrupt foreign elites continue to be attracted to the UK real estate market, particularly in London, to hide their corruption revenues.”

Lord Theodore Agnew wrote in the FT that the bill on economic crime had been “foolishly rejected” last week after he resigned as cabinet minister on Monday over the government’s record in tackling Covid-related fraud.

The bill was recently presented to the Parliamentary Business and Legislative Committee, chaired by House Speaker Jacob Rees-Mogg, as a candidate for the Queen’s speech in May, which will set the legislative agenda for the 2022-23 Parliamentary session.

But government insiders said the committee, which assesses the government’s legislative priorities, had decided that the bill on economic crime should be “pushed down the list.”

Kevin Hollinrake, a Conservative member of the Treasury Department’s committee, said it looked like ministers wanted to prioritize other measures with “more mass appeal” instead. “But it’s not true that this is being delayed,” he said. “We need to show the public that this is something that affects everyone, it’s really important.”

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Officials said Friday that the government could still change its mind and speed up legislation given the situation at the Ukrainian border.

Johnson’s promised last month to make 2022 a “year of action” against fraud by anti-corruption groups, who warn that outdated laws and law enforcement agencies, with a lack of resources, have made Britain a haven for illegal funding.

Sue Hawley, CEO of Spotlight on Corruption, said on Friday: “UK companies are the preferred vehicle for the mafia, the kleptocrats – including people associated with Putin and Russian security services, scammers and organized crime because of the lax rules in Companies House. “

She added: “Real vulnerabilities in our defenses against fraud, money laundering and organized crime are undermining Britain’s reputation as a clean place to do business.”

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