Corrupt elites are being dissuaded from investing foreign money in the UK after a fresh crackdown on “enablers”, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said.
The law enforcement agency said around a dozen people had been arrested in recent weeks, including some from the legal profession, in an attempt to stop countries such as Russia investing corrupt proceeds in the UK.
An NCA source said the arrests would also help shake the reputation of the capital as “Londongrad” – a nod to it being considered a home for Russian money.
The source said: “I’m not going to drill down individually into how we know these things but we know it is having a dissuasive effect from investing corrupt proceeds in the UK.
“And given the number of enablers that we’ve started to target or pick off, clearly some people have decided that the UK is no longer for them.
“Our intelligence also shows us that some individuals are choosing not to invest corrupt funds in the UK – this is about starting to push back on this concept of Londongrad, that people were free to come regardless of their money and do whatever they liked.”
The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee last month accused the Government of complacency in allowing Russian “dirty money” to flow into the UK despite the war in Ukraine.
It said the failure of ministers to take effective action meant assets “laundered” through the City of London were being used to finance President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
In a highly critical report, it said “inadequate preparation and foresight” by the leadership of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office meant the Government was slow to impose sanctions on Russian individuals close to Putin.
And the committee said it was “shameful” it had taken the war for ministers to bring in the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 in March, intended to prevent corrupt funds being laundered through the UK property market.
Home Secretary Priti Patel signalled a second economic crime Bill would follow, including the reform of Companies House, powers to seize crypto-assets from criminals and information sharing on money laundering.
The NCA said: “We are happy with the progress we’ve seen.
“We want to see that second economic crime Bill go through – that is crucial for what we are doing going forward.
“Have we got everything in place yet? The answer is no but we are hopeful of getting what we need.”
He said he could only provide limited details about the dozen “enablers” arrested, but added: “Many of these elites have used so many different enablers to make themselves comfortable in our country, from private schools to estate agents to auction houses to solicitors – you name it, they’ve used it, because it was a convenient means for them to set up.
“So clearly as part of this pushing back on Londongrad, we need to push back on some of these enablers who’ve allowed this to happen.”