Posts Tagged ‘osbourne’

July 2012

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.

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