Wealthy Russians living in Britain told to explain their fortunes or have assets seized
Rich Russians suspected of corruption will be forced to explain their luxury lifestyles in the UK as part of a crackdown on organized crime, British security minister Ben Wallace said.
He told the Times that he wanted the “full force of the government” to bear down on criminals and corrupt politicians using Britain as a playground and haven. “We will come for you, for your assets, and we will make the environment you live in difficult,” he warned.
According to the British government’s estimates, around £90 billion ($127 billion) of illegal cash is laundered in the UK each year. Under so-called ‘unexplained wealth orders,’ which came into force last month as part of the Criminal Finance Act, wealthy people will be forced to explain the source of their assets if there is reason to suspect corruption. Officials could seize suspicious assets worth more than £50,000 ($70,565).
“Unexplained wealth orders can be used against everyone from a local drug trafficker to an international oligarch or overseas criminal,” said Wallace. “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.”
The security minister also referred to the so-called Laundromat case, in which fake companies mainly based in the UK were used to launder cash from Russia through Western banks.
“The government's view is that we know what they are up to and we are not going to let it happen anymore,” Wallace said.
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