Andy McSmith's Diary: Britain really is best when it comes to laundering money

 

We have seen the images of Viktor Yanukovych’s £180m home, his other house in Crimea, his private zoo, and his golf course, and we think this is corruption on a fabulous scale, and yet he is a “rank amateur” compared with some of Russia’s kleptocrats, according to the US fund manager Bill Browder.

Mr Browder has campaigned tirelessly for justice for the Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested and tortured, and who died in prison, because he had exposed a £138m tax scam by corrupt Russian officials.

Mr Browder’s firm, Hermitage Capital Management, has painstakingly traced where the stolen money went, laundered through companies registered abroad. They also looked into the companies that own Yanukovych’s properties and – no surprise here – came upon the names of three directors involved in the tax scam that Magnitsky was investigating.

He believes there are rich, corrupt Russians who have seen the public anger generated by the exposure of Yanukovych’s greed, and fear for themselves. Speaking to Parliament’s all-party anti-corruption group, Mr Browder speculated: “I actually believe that the invasion of Ukraine is a total diversionary tactic to take everyone’s mind off the corruption.”

The US, Swiss, Cypriot, Latvian, Lithuanian, Estonian, and Moldovan governments have all acted on information supplied by Browder’s firm, but its every approach to the UK authorities has drawn a blank. Even a direct approach to the Home Secretary got nowhere. “I have learnt definitively that the UK is the most porous, unrobust and weakest place for enforcing any kind of money-laundering law, bar none. If you are a money launderer, this is the place to be,” he said.

However, as the document accidentally shown to a camera in Downing Street revealed, the Government has decided that one thing it will not do is “close London’s financial centre to Russians”.

Top class, Mr Gove

All credit to Michael Gove and his journalist wife, Sarah Vine, whose daughter, Beatrice, has been awarded a place at Grey Coat Hospital, an academy school in the heart of Westminster. He will be the first Conservative Secretary of State for Education to have a child at a state secondary school.

A crafty Lib Dem coalition

It is a harsh rule of politics that political parties put a clear distance between themselves and anyone accused of a criminal offence, although in law that person is innocent unless and until proved guilty. Thus Patrick Rock, who has not been convicted of anything, is out of Downing Street.

In Dorset, the Liberal Democrats have different ideas. Ryan Hope was their youngest councillor when he was elected to Weymouth and Portland borough council in 2010, aged 20. Last September, he appeared in court facing seven charges, which he denies, including rape and sexual assault on a child. For four months, the local party acted as if nothing had happened. In January, there was a horrified reaction when someone at Lib Dem national headquarters found out, and Mr Hope’s party membership was promptly suspended.

He is now, therefore, an independent councillor, which would have affected his right to sit on council committees, where places are allocated by party groups – except that Weymouth’s Lib Dems have invented something called the “Coalition of Liberal Democrats and Allies” group, which Mr Hope has joined, so they can all carry on as before. The national party is looking into this.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news

Sport
footballThe latest scores and Twitter updates from tonight’s games, featuring Bayern Munich vs Man City and Chelsea vs Schalke
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Extras
10 best table lamps
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager (technical, applications, infrastructure)

£55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...

English Teacher (Bristol and South Gloucestershire)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: English teachers for day to day cover,...

Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 6 Teacher RequiredThis teaching...

SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's Stortford / Stansted

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week