UK turns blind eye to dirty Russian money: British MPs

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London, May 21 (IANS) The UK has been accused of turning a “blind eye” to Russia’s “dirty money”, putting national security at risk. A British parliamentarian body said London is being used to hide Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal assets, media reports said.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said it was “business as usual” for the UK despite the poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter as the UK was being used to stash “corrupt assets” of Putin and his allies, the BBC reported.

A report, named Moscow’s Gold: Russian Corruption in the UK, points out that Russian gas giant Gazprom was able to trade bonds in London “days after the attempted murders” of Skripal and his daughter.

This undermined the UK’s efforts to confront the full spectrum of Putin’s offensive measures, it added.

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Business between the UK and Russia had resumed so swiftly following the incident that it had prompted the Russian embassy in London to tweet: “Business as usual?”

Committee Chairman and Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat wrote in the Sunday Times, ahead of the publication of the report that the UK’s “lethargic response is being taken as proof that we do not dare stop them… London’s markets are enabling the Kremlin’s efforts”.

Security and Economic Crime Minister Ben Wallace said he had not been called to give evidence to the Committee: “I fear such an omission weakens the foundation of the report,” he said.

Wallace said the UK was “determined to drive dirty money and the money launderers out”.

“(We) will use all the powers we have, including the new powers in the Criminal Finance Act, to clamp down on those that threaten our security,” he added.

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Tungendhat said ministers should investigate “gaps” in the sanctions regime which allows the Russian government and individuals linked to Putin to continue to raise funds in the city.

“The scale of damage that this ‘dirty money’ can do to the UK foreign policy interests dwarfs the benefit of Russian transactions in the city.

“The UK must be clear that the corruption stemming from the Kremlin is no longer welcome in our markets and we will act,” the BBC quoted Tugendhat as saying.

The committee’s report urges the government to show “stronger political leadership” on the issue by taking a number of actions, including: further sanctions against “Kremlin-connected individuals”; closing loopholes in the existing sanctions regime and speeding up plans to disclose transparent corporate ownership.”

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–IANS

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