February 3, 2018 / 11:52 AM / 16 days ago

UK promises to crack down on assets of corrupt oligarchs: The Times

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will use new powers to seize the assets of foreign criminals and corrupt politicians, The Times newspaper reported on Saturday quoting the security minister.

Investors from Russia, China and the Middle East have poured billions into London, buying everything from luxury properties to entire companies, but the provenance of some of those funds has been questioned by transparency campaigners.

It is unclear how much money is laundered through Britain, but the National Crime Agency has said calculations of between 36 billion pounds ($50.83 billion) and 90 billion pounds ($127.08 billion) are “a significant underestimate”.

Security minister Ben Wallace told The Times that the government would use powers regarding unexplained wealth to freeze and recover property if individuals cannot explain how they acquired assets over 50,000 pounds ($70,000).

A woman holds a Union flag umbrella in front of the Big Ben clock tower (R) and the Houses of Parliament in London October 4, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/Files

“When we get to you we will come for you, for your assets and we will make the environment that you live in difficult,” Wallace said.

Last year, British media reported on a “Laundromat” inquiry into an alleged Russian-led money laundering scheme, in which $22.3 billion passed through Moldova using Russian shell companies and fictitious loans from offshore companies based in Britain in 2011-2014.

Wallace said the government was determined to stop such behaviour.

“What we know from the Laundromat exposé is that certainly there have been links to the [Russian] state,” he was quoted as saying. “The government’s view is that we know what they are up to and we are not going to let it happen any more.”

($1 = 0.7082 pounds)

Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Stephen Powell

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