Senior MPs set to probe flow of 'dirty money' into UK from Russia amid row over nerve agent attack

Transparency campaigners have identified £4.4bn worth of UK property bought with 'suspicious wealth'

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Friday 16 March 2018 08:59 GMT
Tensions have escalated with Russia over the use of a deadly nerve agent on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia
Tensions have escalated with Russia over the use of a deadly nerve agent on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia (Reuters)

Senior MPs are poised to probe the flow of dirty money flooding into the UK amid escalating tensions with Russia over the poisoning of an ex-spy and his daughter, The Independent understands.

The Treasury Select Committee is understood to be in talks with other high-level Commons committees over a potential investigation into money laundering by criminal gangs and corrupt billionaires in the wake of the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

London has been seen by some as a desirable place to hide 'suspicious wealth', while transparency campaigners have identified £4.4bn worth of UK property from corrupt proceeds. More than a fifth of those properties were bought by Russians, according to Transparency International.

"London is awash with dirty Russian money. The inquiry will look at that," a source told The Independent.

It comes as Britain and three of its closest allies - France, Germany and the United States - unanimously blamed Russia for the use of a military-grade nerve agent for the first time since the Second World War, which was branded as a "significant assault on UK sovereignty".

Theresa May said there was "no place for these people [corrupt elites] or their money" in the UK and indicated her support for a probe in the Commons when she outlined plans to expel 23 Russian spies posing as diplomats from the UK.

Responding to a question on tackling dirty money from Nicky Morgan, who chairs the Treasury Select Committee, the Prime Minister said: “I recognise the role that Select Committees can play.

“I suspect that she has just set up a stream of work for her own Treasury Committee to undertake.”

Tory MP Bob Seely, a Kremlin expert who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, has written to the heads of seven influential committees, including Defence and National Security, urging them to team up to face the Russian threat or risk missing the bigger picture.

The former soldier, who lived in Russia in the 1990s, told The Independent: “We need to make sure our system is clean, that is is transparent and that is rejects dirty money from Russia or elsewhere.

“The hard use of our soft power is an important part of that."

Ms May announced plans for so-called Magnitsky powers to target the UK assets of Russians involved in corruption and human rights abuses, in a hard-hitting statement to MPs in response to the attack on the Skripals.

The measures are based on legislation enacted in the United States, after the death of Moscow lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered a tangled web of fraud and corruption implicating several senior Russian figures. He later died in prison.

The Prime Minister also proposed new powers to stop spies at the border and dismantle Russia's intelligence network in the UK, and suspension of high level diplomatic contact between the UK and Russia.

A boycott of the World Cup in Russia by ministers and the Royal Family is also on the cards, she said.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in