Britain is a notorious haven for dirty money MPs now have the chance to crack down
Today, this government will have an unprecedented opportunity to end Britains role as a hub for kleptocrats and criminals who want to launder their cash. The long-awaited economic crime and corporate transparency bill returns to the House of Commons, where MPs will vote on a slew of amendments from the Lords that seek to close gaping loopholes.
The role of the UK and its offshore territories in pandering to wealthy foreigners was thrown into sharp focus by Russias invasion of Ukraine in February last year. Those closest to Vladimir Putin and his war machine many of whom have long used Londongrad as a playground were slapped with sanctions, and their known assets frozen. The government hastily passed its Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022, making it easier, among other measures, to prosecute anyone involved in busting sanctions.
But how to freeze assets if we dont know where they are? There are 93,537 properties in England and Wales owned through opaque offshore companies, from luxury Knightsbridge penthouses to mansions in Surrey. Though the 2022 act brought in the new Register of Overseas Entities, where beneficial owners must be logged, there are still legal ways round this; and figures released by Transparency International in February suggest the owners of more than 50,000 offshore-held properties remain anonymous.