Britain introduces bill aimed at crackdown on dirty money

On Monday, Britain introduced a bill in parliament with the aim of intensify a crackdown on what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson termed as “dirty money”.

The bill, introduced in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, comes after many lawmakers, from the opposition and from the ruling Conservative party called on the British government to do more to stop the flow of Russian cash into London, dubbed by some as ‘Londongrad’. 

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

Early measures by Britain have done little to dissuade many Russian oligarchs from using London as their Western capital of choice to spend large sums on property, education and luxury goods.

The government said the new bill would help the National Crime Agency prevent foreign owners from laundering their money in British property and to ensure more “corrupt oligarchs” could be handed an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWOs)

Those orders, introduced in 2018 to help authorities target the illicit wealth of foreign officials suspected of corruption and those involved in serious crime, have rarely been used because of high legal costs.

Britain new laws will introduce a Register of Overseas Entities, requiring anonymous foreign owners of property in Britain to reveal their real identities. Those who do not declare their beneficial owner will face restrictions on selling their property and those who break the rules could face up to five years in prison, said the government.

UWOs is aimed at prevent people from hiding behind shell companies, and provide law enforcement agencies more time to review material and to protect them from substantial legal costs if cases are unsuccessful.

The legislation also allows the Register of Overseas Entities to apply the provisions of the law retrospectively to property purchased by overseas owners up to 20 years ago in England and Wales and since December 2014 in Scotland.

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