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UK fails to tackle Russian 'dirty money' despite sanctions, MPs say

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By Euronews  with AFP
Various pound notes
Various pound notes   -   Copyright  Canva

A British parliamentary report on Thursday criticised the government's failure to tackle the influx of Russian "dirty money" into the UK, despite sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine.

An all-party committee of MPs says that although ministers had boasted "about the need to clamp down on kleptocrats, rhetoric has not been matched by constructive action". Russian funds have "continued to flow into the UK", they claim.

Even before Moscow's full-scale invasion on 24 February, Boris Johnson's government claimed it was acting robustly to deal with dubious Russian money. 

But the Foreign Affairs Committee said in an interim report published on Thursday that tough talk had not been followed up by sufficiently strong and concrete measures.

The UK has long been accused of complacency towards Russian elites and their millions, earning some of the capital's upmarket districts the nickname "Londongrad".

"For far too long successive governments have allowed malign actors and kleptocrats to wash their dirty money in the London ‘laundromat’," Conservative Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat said in a statement. "Complacency has left the door open to corrupt wealth taking root and morally bankrupt billionaires using the UK as a safe deposit box."

"Working closely with allies will be critical to the success of any new legislation, ensuring that dirty money has nowhere to hide," he added. "But new laws are only half the battle. Enforcement agencies need funding, resources and highly-specialised staff in order to do their job effectively."

The report says it is "shameful that it took a war" to push the government to act.

It also stresses that the sanctions taken — which the government says target a thousand people and 120 companies — must lead to criminal investigations. 

The threat illicit finance poses to our national security demands a response that is seen to be serious," the MPs say.

"The UK’s status as a safe haven for dirty money is a stain on our reputation. The Government must bring legislation in line with the morals of the British people and close the loopholes that allow for such rife exploitation," Tom Tugendhat concludes.

But British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss rejected the MPs' criticism.

She said the government immediately passed emergency legislation after the Russian invasion to "hit Russia hard with sanctions", claiming that the UK had sanctioned "more individuals and entities in Russia as a country than any other government in the world".