UK legislation targeting Russian dirty money clears House of Commons
LONDON — The U.K. House of Commons today approved new legislation meant to crack down on money laundering and streamline the process for imposing sanctions on Russia, in a bid to punish Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
The bill was rushed through all the traditional stages of approval in the Commons today and will undergo scrutiny in the House of Lords on March 14, with an aim of finalizing the law that same day. This would open the door for the government to sanction many more individuals linked to the Kremlin on March 15, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told a parliamentary committee.
Speaking during the second reading of the bill, U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being a “gangster” whose regime is “underpinned by a mob of oligarchs and kleptocrats who have abused the financial system and the rule of law for too long.”
The long-delayed legislation, promised by the ruling Conservatives six years ago, gives the government extra powers to identify and investigate illicit wealth and provides for the creation of a new property register aimed at dissuading oligarchs from laundering money by buying homes and other property in the U.K.
A foreign company that wishes to own property in Britain would be required to identify its beneficial owners and to register them with the Companies House agency. Failure to comply with these new obligations or providing false information would lead to criminal or civil sanctions, which in England and Wales include prison sentences of up to five years or a fine.
The government rejected all the amendments submitted by the opposition, including one calling for a report on the funding of enforcement agencies linked with reforms to unexplained wealth orders.
Cross-party MPs nonetheless had also called for better protections for whistleblowers as well as powers to confiscate assets rather than just freezing them.
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