John McDonnell demands urgent financial crackdown on Assad regime after alleged chemical attack
John McDonnell today urged the Government to speed up a transparency drive that could usher in a major financial crackdown on the brutal Assad regime in Syria.
The Shadow Chancellor lamented that action against the Syrian government fell short compared with other nations and said a promised property register would be an “essential defence against corruption”.
His comments, specifically targeting President Bashar al-Assad in the wake of the alleged latest chemical weapons attack in Syria, suggests a fresh break from the position of Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr McDonnell has already been slapped down by the Labour leader for pointing the finger directly at Vladimir Putin for the Salisbury nerve agent attack.
“According to international reports the UK is recouping far less from individuals linked to the Syrian regime in corrupt assets in other countries,” he told Chancellor Philip Hammond today.
Mr McDonnell said an estimated £151m in assets linked to the regime are have been frozen by the UK, with some 262 individuals identified as financial sanctions targets.
He added that some half a billion pounds worth of assets had been not just frozen but seized by the Spanish government, and lamented the “lack of transparency” in the UK system.
“The Government promised to introduce a date for a register of owners of UK properties based overseas back in 2015,” he explained.
“But three years later we are now told the register will not be published until 2021. Will he now bring that date forward for the introduction what is an essential defence against corruption?”
His comments are a far cry from those of Mr Corbyn, who has suggested rebel groups fighting the Syrian civil war may have carried out the attack.
Mr Hammond said he would look into the matter and write to his Labour counterpart.
The Chancellor added: "We all want to ensure that London cannot be used as a routing for dirty money for the ill-gotten gains of regimes that are stealing from their people and channelling money offshore.
“But we must recognise that London is the world's largest global financial centre. That represents some challenges for us in doing this - but we will continue this work."