It matters where Russian money comes from; Oligarchs find it easy to settle in Britain. But more questions should be asked about them

The Times

A huge stream of money has flowed into Britain from the old Soviet Union since the end of Communism. The British public seems used to the fact that, from time to time, another flamboyant or publicity-shy oligarch whom nobody had previously heard of pops up on the radar as if descending from another planet.

All he has to do is buy a stake in a high-profile business or make a record-breaking bid on a house or country estate and a Russian billionaire or millionaire can easily break into elite British society.
Very little is required to establish oneself as a plutocrat in this country. Local banks apply meagre “know your client” procedures to vet applicants: a passport copy and a utility bill are all that is needed to open an account at any London-based private bank. Then, as if by magic, funds pour into the UK as clean capital, free from any taxation or further scrutiny. Getting the right to stay permanently in the UK with an investor visa is just as easy; all that is needed is a minimum of £2 million in personal assets.

Most rich Russians living in the UK have made their wealth honestly, but there is money sloshing around Britain tainted by corruption. Yet few new arrivals can expect to be challenged on where the money came from, or what they had to do back in Russia to acquire it.

Many in the British Establishment aren’t bothered by this laxness. After all, few Russian billionaires have so far parlayed their fortune into politics — particularly after the fuss caused when George Osborne and Peter Mandelson enjoyed the hospitality of Oleg Deripaska on his yacht off Corfu.
But you should be bothered. Evidence in the court case brought by Boris Berezovsky against Roman Abramovich gave us an insight into how those who amass (and lose) fortunes in Russia, however upright or law-abiding, have to do so against a backdrop of corruption and political interference. This case introduced British lawyers to krysha (the Russian for roof) — the protection money many businessmen pay to do business.

In Putin’s Russia, where the Government is run more like an organised crime syndicate than a functioning state, no inquiries are made about politically reliable billionaires and how they make their money and run their businesses. Sleaze is the norm. But Britain has the rule of law, not to mention a moral, political and financial obligation to its citizens to block the import of corruption. For instance, its 2010 Bribery Act stipulated that the bribing of foreign officials, even if outside the UK, may be punishable by ten years in jail. Will any Russians bearing billions be investigated under this law?

Britons might take a leaf out of America’s book. This week the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act was passed unanimously in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This Bill is named after an anti-corruption lawyer who died in police custody. He had exposed and was framed for a $230 million tax fraud perpetrated against the Russian Government by its own officials. The Bill would require the US to deny visas to and freeze the assets of Russians suspected of involvement in his death, as well as all those who abuse human rights and disregard the rule of law.

The Kremlin claims that the Bill is anti-Russian and has lobbied to have it stopped in Congress. Let me be clear: it is pro-Russian because it targets the corrupt and criminal who profit at the expense of ordinary citizens.

Call me naive, but I believe that no public official or executive of state-owned enterprises in Russia — or those who bribe them in order to amass fortunes — should be able to make hundreds of millions while in office and then, once out of it, move to another country as a newly minted, law-abiding citizen without a fuss being made.

The British public and the authorities in London must be more questioning about Russian money. More effort must be put into distinguishing honest businessmen who want to live, work and invest in the UK from those who have made fortunes through corruption and now want to come to Britain to legitimise their dirty wealth.

Alexey Navalny is a Russian lawyer, blogger and political activist. He is the founder of the Foundation for Fighting Corruption. микрозайм онлайн срочный займ https://zp-pdl.com/online-payday-loans-cash-advances.php https://zp-pdl.com/online-payday-loans-in-america.php микрозайм онлайн

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