Security minister Ben Wallace announces crackdown on oligarch corruption
The government plans to take a ruthless approach to tackle illegal cash and assets, the security minister has said.
Foreign criminals hoarding the products of organised crime will risk having their assets seized by the state under new rules passed this week.
New Unexplained Wealth Orders allow the government to freeze suspicious assets worth more than £50,000 until they have been properly accounted for.
Speaking to The Times, Mr Wallace said that foreign criminals would feel ‘the full force of government’ spending ill-gotten cash in the UK.
‘Unexplained wealth orders can be used against everyone from a local drug trafficker to an international oligarch or overseas criminal.’ he said.
‘If they are an MP in a country where they don’t receive a big salary but suddenly they have a nice Knightsbridge townhouse worth millions and they can’t prove how they paid for it, we will seize that asset, we will dispose of it and we will use the proceeds to fund our law enforcement.’
Mr Wallace claimed that ‘dozens’ of potential targets have already been identified.
‘We are going to go after these iconic individuals, whether they are known about in their local community or known about internationally.’
He cited BBC One drama McMafia, which is about Russian organised crime in the UK, as important for raising public awareness.
‘It’s a really good portrayal of sharp-suited wealthy individuals, but follow the money and it ends up with a young girl getting trafficked for sex.’
The announcement follows the ‘Azerbaijani Laundromat’ scandal exposed last September, which saw the UK at the centre of a £2.2 billion money laundering scheme.