Johnson Is ‘Protecting’ Russian Oligarchs Money

4th March 2022 / United Kingdom
Johnson goes all-out to protect Russian Oligarchs money

By TruePublica: I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that the government has severely cut the budget of the anti-corruption unit tasked with investigating dirty Russian oligarchs money in “Londongrad.” At best, this is a cynical act of hypocrisy by the Boris Johnson government, at worst, it is something quite sinister.

Ministers have significantly slashed spending on the International Corruption Unit (ICU) this year already.

Defence experts said the resources allocated by the government to fighting kleptocrats were “embarrassing”. Conservative MPs said that enforcement agencies were “massively outgunned” by oligarchs with expensive lawyers.

The ICU, which sits within the National Crime Agency (NCA), receives its money from Britain’s aid budget, but its funding has been reduced from £5.7 million to £5 million this year.

The ICU builds its cases for unexplained wealth orders, which force kleptocrats to prove their fortunes have been legally obtained. In practice though, the authorities have struggled to obtain the orders through the courts.

The result? Just four cases have been successfully brought since their introduction in 2018 – an astonishing prosecution rate of just a year.

In evidence submitted to parliament’s intelligence and security committee recently, the NCA ended up complaining that they had not been properly funded to take on “wealthy people with access to the best lawyers”.

This all comes back to the Russia Report that Boris Johnson worked so hard to bury. First, it was delayed, then the report ended up being redacted so much, it was accused of being nothing less than a whitewash report.

The committee’s Russia report, published in 2020 gave all the warnings needed. It identified the failure to properly invest in the NCA as a key weakness in British security. It also highlighted that oligarchs were able to circumvent measures to crack down on dirty money in London with the help of British lawyers, which it described as “a key group of professional enablers”.

Kevin Hollinrake, the Conservative MP for Thirsk & Malton said the NCA was “massively outgunned by rich defendants’ lawyers”.

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“Economic crime accounts for 40 per cent of all crime, yet only 1 per cent of the crime-fighting resources,” he said. “It is great that we are now legislating to make life easier for our agencies, but we also massively need to beef up their resources.”

Helena Wood, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said the government had “vastly underfunded” the agencies of this type of enforcement. She said new powers would be pointless without strengthening the resources the NCA and other agencies needed, adding: “Law is completely ineffective if no one is around to enforce it.”

Professor John Heathershaw, of the University of Exeter, said – “The system is deluged. There is no difference between someone who says ‘I’m the minister of oil and can put £50 million in a UK bank account’ and a student trying to set up an account for a master’s degree.

In the meantime, Johnson has been accused of letting Russian oligarchs move assets before they are sanctioned – especially that of VTB Bank – Putin’s bank of choice, by providing an ‘absurd 30-day loophole‘ that enables the bank and its Russian clients to divert or divest from assets likely to be seized or frozen. Johnson is also coming under pressure to tighten the net on illicit Russian finance in “weeks, not years”, as officials confirmed that they are aware of wealthy oligarchs moving cash out of the UK in advance of expected sanctions.



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