By Agence France-Presse
British MPs urged the government Monday to clamp down on corrupt Russian money flowing through London, warning that turning a “blind eye” risked undermining its tough approach to Moscow.
Prime Minister Theresa May expelled diplomats and vowed new measures against human rights offenders after a nerve agent attack in Salisbury blamed on Moscow, and has been outspoken in her response to Russian aggression elsewhere.
But in a hard-hitting report, the House of Commons foreign affairs committee said: “President (Vladimir) Putin and his allies have been able to continue ‘business as usual’ by hiding and laundering their corrupt assets in London.”
It called for stronger action against Kremlin-connected individuals and urged Britain to use its role as a financial center to encourage global action to tighten loopholes in the existing sanctions regime.
“There is no excuse for the UK to turn a blind eye as President Putin’s kleptocrats and human rights abusers use money laundered through London to corrupt our friends, weaken our alliances, and erode faith in our institutions,” said committee chairman Tom Tugenhadt.
He added: “The UK must be clear that the corruption stemming from the Kremlin is no longer welcome in our markets and we will act.
“We must be united in our efforts to match rhetoric with action — in the City, through government policy and among allies in the US, G7, and EU.”
Outlining the “mixed messages” coming from Britain, the report noted last year’s flotation on the London Stock Exchange of the Kremlin-linked En+ Group, aided by sanctioned banks VTB Capital and Gazprombank.
It also cited the sale of Russian sovereign debt in London on March 16 this year, two days after the government announced the expulsion of 23 diplomats over the Salisbury attack — again involving VTB Bank.
Parliament recently agreed to step up action against corruptly-obtained assets, including approving a new Magnitsky law, which allows the government to sanction people for human rights abuses.
Ministers have also committed to a register of who is behind overseas companies that own property in Britain, although the MPs expressed regret that the move had been delayed.