Tory MPs urged Boris Johnson to revive a long-awaited economic crime bill – designed to flow of dirty money to the UK – after the legislation was hit by further delays.
John Penrose, the government’s campaigner against corruption, said on Friday that the prime minister should speed up the bill to send a signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine.
“London’s financial markets are a huge economic asset, but they are also magnets for dirty cash and, with Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, Putin will look for any signs of weakness that we are not serious about threats to him. does not sanction. oligarchs, ”he said.
“The legislation to close all these gaps. . . has been promised for years and, if we postpone it again, at the moment when the rubber really hits the road, no one will believe we are serious. ”
The bill is expected to include crucial reform of Companies House to combat the abuse of tracking companies as well as powers to unmask the real owners of foreign companies which possesses British property and stricter powers to challenge kleptocrats’ inexplicable wealth.
The reforms have garnered support between parties due to widespread concerns about the £ 100 billion worth of dirty money estimated by the UK National Crime Agency channeled from countries including Russia, and the increase in Covid-19 fraud state support.
A 2020 government report said “corrupt foreign elites are still being attracted to the British real estate market, especially in London, to disguise their corruption proceeds.”
Lord Theodore Agnew wrote in the FT that the economic crime bill was “foolishly rejected” last week after he thank you Monday as cabinet minister on the government’s record in tackling Covid-related fraud.
The bill was recently submitted to the Parliamentary Affairs and Legislative Committee, chaired by the leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, as a contender for the Queen’s speech in May setting out the legislative agenda for the 2022-23 parliamentary session will determine.
But government insiders said the committee, which assesses the government’s legislative priorities, decided the economic crime bill should be “printed off the list”.
Kevin Hollinrake, a Conservative member of the select committee of the treasury, said it appears that ministers would rather prioritize other measures with “more mass appeal”. “But it is not right that it should be delayed,” he said. “We have to demonstrate to the public that this is something that affects everyone, it’s really important.”
Fighters also called for the bill to include a long-awaited corporate criminal liability reform, to make it easier to prosecute corporations for economic crime.
Officials said on Friday that the government could still change its mind and speed up legislation, given the unfolding situation on the Ukrainian border.
Johnson’s promised last month to make 2022 a “year of action” against fraud with anti-corruption groups warning that outdated laws and law enforcement agencies with deficient resources have made the UK a haven for illegal funding.
Sue Hawley, executive director of Spotlight on Corruption, said on Friday: “UK companies are the vehicle of choice for the mafia, kleptocrats – including people linked to Putin and Russian security services, fraudsters and organized crime due to the lax rules at Companies House. ”
She added: “Real vulnerabilities in our defense against fraud, money laundering and organized crime are undermining the UK’s reputation as a clean place to do business.”