UK facilitates corruption by Central Asian elites, says new report

Skyline of the City of London, November 2023.
Skyline of the City of London, November 2023. Copyright DANIEL LEAL/AFP
By Euronews with AFP
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The UK’s powerful financial sector “bears some responsibility for the continuation of corruption and kleptocracy by Central Asian elites”, according to a British parliamentary report, which also noted the government’s responsibility in the matter.

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The report analysed the UK’s role in illicit funds that flow through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

It highlighted the links between drug trafficking through those five countries, stating the illegal substances act as triggers of regional conflicts.

“Drugs trafficking is a complex issue with close links between the trade and ruling elites as well as organised crime,” the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee said in its report, published last week.

“Funds from drug trafficking transit through the City of London,” it added, acknowledging that the UK constitutes a likely destination for the drugs themselves.

The MPs behind the report voiced criticism against the country’s low results in prosecuting financial crimes, noting “the financial asymmetry between oligarchs operating in the UK and law enforcement agencies”.

The UK government's complicit attitude

”Corruption is present throughout Central Asia,” noted a 2021 Transparency International report, ranking several countries in this region among the most corrupt in the world.

“By its failure to stem flows of illicit finance through the UK’s financial system, the Government is complicit in the plundering of Central Asian economies by their elites,” MPs from Foreign Affairs Committee said.

The report also pointed out how some Central Asian states help Russia circumvent Western-imposed sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine.

The committee called on the UK to work with Central Asian countries to bring back the misappropriated funds, and to close off “opportunities for entities involved in sanctions evasion to use the City of London and UK services”.

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