New UK law to track ‘dirty money’

The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill will be introduced in parliament on Tuesday, following growing concerns and demands that the UK government act against Russian and other foreign individuals who allegedly launder ‘dirty money’ through the purchase of property and other assets in Britain through opaque ownership structures and offshore accounts



Ships are seen in Aberdeen Harbour, the busiest port for the oil industry in the UK, in Aberdeen, Scotland. — AFP file photo
Ships are seen in Aberdeen Harbour, the busiest port for the oil industry in the UK, in Aberdeen, Scotland. — AFP file photo

By Prasun Sonwalkar

Published: Mon 28 Feb 2022, 8:19 PM

The UK government on Monday said it is fast-tracking a law in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to crack down on wealth of corrupt international elites, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson declaring: “There is no place for dirty money in the UK”.

The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill will be introduced in parliament on Tuesday, following growing concerns and demands that the UK government act against Russian and other foreign individuals who allegedly launder ‘dirty money’ through the purchase of property and other assets in Britain through opaque ownership structures and offshore accounts.

Several Russian individuals with assets and interests in Britain have been subjected to economic sanctions since Russia invaded Ukraine, with MPs and others demanding tougher restrictions.

It will also include a register of owners of property, called the Register of Overseas Entities. It will be applied retrospectively to property bought by overseas owners up to 20 years ago in England and Wales and since December 2014 in Scotland.

A new ‘Kleptocracy’ cell based in the National Crime Agency (NCA) is being set up urgently to investigate evasion of the sanctions to ensure that those seeking to bypass the curbs will be caught and punished.

The new legislation will help NCA prevent foreign owners from laundering their money in UK property and ensure more corrupt oligarchs can be handed an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO).

“The new register will require anonymous foreign owners of UK property to reveal their real identities to ensure criminals cannot hide behind secretive chains of shell companies…Entities who do not declare their ‘beneficial owner’ will face restrictions over selling their property, and those who break the rules could face up to five years in prison,” officials said.

Under the reforms being brought in on UWOs, those who hold property in the UK in a trust will be brought within scope and the definition of an asset’s ‘holder’ will also be expanded to ensure individuals cannot hide behind opaque shell companies and foundations.

Johnson said: “There is no place for dirty money in the UK. We are going faster and harder to tear back the façade that those supporting Putin’s campaign of destruction have been hiding behind for so long. Those backing Putin have been put on notice: there will be nowhere to hide your ill-gotten gains”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel added: “Government has taken unprecedented action in the face of barbaric Russian aggression. Time is up for Putin’s cronies hiding dirty money in the UK and this new legislation will help to crack down on economic crime, including removing key barriers to using Unexplained Wealth Orders”.

— business@khaleejtimes.com


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