UK slammed for ‘under-enforcement’ of corruption laws as new report identifies £325 BILLION in ‘suspect’ cash
It’s no secret that some of the world’s most corrupt flock to the UK to take advantage of lax enforcement of anti-corruption laws, but new research claims to show how UK firms are wittingly and unwittingly facilitating the crime.
Transparency International (TI) analyzed more than 400 corruption and money-laundering cases, totalling £325 billion-worth of “suspect funds,” and revealed the lavish spending habits of the elite.
Among other things, TI said corrupt money had been spent on a £1 million Cartier ring and huge sums on masterpieces from Sotheby’s, a Tom Ford crocodile-skin jacket and matching handbag from Harrods, 421 luxury properties worth £5 billion – and a hovercraft.
The cash in question frequently comes from embezzlement by corrupt state officials in foreign countries, the report said. British service providers, it adds, “have been involved in some of the most egregious cases of corruption in our time.”
Yet, despite the fact that the problem is occurring on a regular basis, Britain seems unable or unwilling to tackle it efficiently. TI said laws to combat such corruption "remain under-enforced" – and the lax enforcement therefore contributes to the "lack of a credible deterrent against wrongdoing."
The report found that 582 British firms or individuals had helped the super-rich bring their dodgy money into the country. Money was laundered through a whopping 17,000 shell companies and, incredibly, 1,455 of those were registered to the same address, over a wine bar in Birmingham.
The report also points to "significant deficiencies" in the UK's corporate liability laws, which mean it is incredibly difficult to successfully prosecute a big multi-national company for money laundering or bribery.
The nature of the involvement of British companies and institutions in these schemes varies from “unwitting involvement” to fully complicit and “knowingly facilitating” corruption.
The Chief Executive of Transparency International UK, Daniel Bruce, said that while government and law enforcement agencies have made progress in recent years, it is still "far too easy" for corrupt individuals to receive assistance from UK businesses. "There remains too much poor practice to be able to assume bad behaviour is confined to a few rotten apples," he said.
“This should act as a wake-up call for Government and regulators, and deliver much-needed reforms to the UK’s defences against dirty money,” Duncan Hames, director of policy at Transparency International UK, said.
London has long been seen as a playground for the rich and corrupt, but it’s not just luxury items that these people are after, either. They are also forking out cash on “educational consultants” to help secure places for their kids at the most prestigious British schools and universities. Nearly £3 million was paid to private schools like Charterhouse and Lancing College. Universities like the London School of Economics and University College London also received hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The report describes the UK property market as a "prime destination" for criminals to launder and enjoy their stolen wealth "with impunity" – using the properties as their own personal "safety-deposit box."
In May, Zamira Hajiyeva, the wife of a corrupt Azeri banker serving 15 years in prison, became the subject of the UK's first unexplained wealth orders (UWO). Hajiyeva coughed up £30,000 on luxury Godiva chocolates at Harrods as part of a decade-long, £16 million spending spree.
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