Government 'turning a blind eye' to dirty Russian money flowing into UK, say MPs
Theresa May’s tough rhetoric against the Russian regime is being undermined by a “business as usual” approach to Russian cash, say MPs.
MPs on the powerful Foreign Affairs Committee have warned the Government that they are putting the UK’s national security at risk by allowing Russian “dirty money” to flow through the UK.
Despite Theresa May’s tough rhetoric on Russia in the wake of the Salisbury nerve agent attack, the Committee warned that the UK is turning a “blind eye” to Russian money being laundered through London which is used to “corrupt our friends, weaken our alliances, and erode faith in our institutions.”
The committee called on ministers to close “gaps” in the sanctions regime, extend sanctions to more individuals with links to the Kremlin, and promote transparency of corporate ownerships in a bid to crack down on money laundering.
The report said that measures would help exert maximum economic leverage on President Putin whose ability to execute an “aggressive foreign policy” was directly linked to the cash.
Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Tom Tugendhat, said: “The scale of damage that this ‘dirty money’ can do to UK foreign policy interests dwarfs the benefit of Russian transaction in the City.
“As the 2018 National Security Capability Review made clear, money laundering is a foreign policy issue as it affects our national security. Today, we make recommendations to government with the aim of hitting Kremlin-linked individuals in their pockets and levering pressure on the regime.
“We can no longer allow ‘business as usual’. The UK must be clear that the corruption stemming from the Kremlin is no longer welcome in our markets and we will act. We must be united in our efforts to match rhetoric with action – in the City, through Government policy and among allies in the US, G7 and EU."
He pressed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to produce a “coherent strategy” for tackling Russian state aggression.
“We call on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to set out a coherent strategy on Russia that clearly links together the diplomatic, military and financial tools that the UK can use to counter Russian state aggression," said Mr Tugenhandt.
The Russian embassy took to Twitter to mock the UK after it was revealed that Russian energy company Gazprom raised £656m in a bond sale on the UK markets just one day after two dozen Russian diplomats were expelled from the country.
The embassy account tweeted “Business as usual?”.
Russian Ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yokovenko, said that Russians in the UK were preparing to take the Government to court if they were targeted by sanctions.
“This Conservative government should really examine its policy towards Russia and why it has reached this level. Some British politicians should also think about the kind of language they use, there are some people who are determined to make matters worse instead of better,” he said.”
He added: “If the British government brings in these laws targeting Russians in the UK then the Russians can take the matter to court, I believe a lot of them are preparing for this already and preparing legal cases. This is something which should be open to them, after all we keep being told that the UK is a country of laws.”