The home secretary has made clear that she wants to see lawyers and other ‘enablers’ of kleptocrats jailed for their involvement with “dirty money”.
Priti Patel said the Russian invasion of Ukraine has “placed a harsh spotlight on many global vulnerabilities, including the tradecraft associated with illicit finance in our own country”.
Writing in the London Evening Standard, she acknowledged that, in global financial centres like London, “dirty money and illicit finance have become the norm for many overseas investors, including the kleptocrats linked to President Putin, who have funded his illegal war in Ukraine.”
The UK has sanctioned more than 1,100 individuals and over 100 entities linked to the Russian state, including over 120 oligarchs with a combined net worth exceeding £130bn.
Ms Patel argued that the UK was “a global leader in tackling economic crime”, highlighting the recent Economic Crime Act and upcoming Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, as well as the combating kleptocracy cell established by the National Crime Agency.
The cell’s task is to enforce sanctions on Kremlin-linked entities “as well as target the sectors that facilitate their criminal transactions”, she wrote.
“This has prompted many Russian kleptocrats to divest their UK wealth as they realise the UK will never be a haven for their corrupt financial practices and assets.”
The minister stressed the importance of driving out “the corrosive practices that undermine our institutions”.
She continued: “I have been clear about the need to go after those criminals even harder and make them pay for their corruptly obtained assets. I want law enforcement to make much greater use of powers to seize any UK assets linked to criminality.
“We’ve invested £400m over the next three years to tackle economic crime. This will enhance the intelligence capacity in the NCA so they can progress vital complex criminal investigations and put some of these kleptocrats, as well as the lawyers, property agents and accountants who enable them, behind bars.”
The bill aimed to reform Companies House “to halt the use of thousands of UK companies as vehicles for facilitating international money laundering”, Ms Patel said.
It would also do more to prevent abuse of limited partnerships, ensure targeted information sharing to tackle money laundering and economic crime, introduce new intelligence-gathering powers for law enforcement, and give extra powers to seize suspect crypto assets.
“We will also publish a new economic crime plan with an even greater focus on tackling kleptocracy and sanctions evasion.”