UK Law Firms Big Part Of The Putin Problem Says UK MP In Daily Mail Article

MP Bob Seely writes in the Daily Mail.

Looks like some UK law firms better start ditching clients


As I stood listening by the Serjeant at Arms’ chair, I welcomed the announcement of sanctions against five Russian banks and three corrupt billionaires.

It is a start, but Boris Johnson needs to go much further in the coming days and weeks.

It was recently reported that Russians accused of corruption or who have links to the Kremlin have bought up property in Britain amounting to £1.5billion – 28 per cent of it in Westminster, a stone’s throw from Parliament.

In addition, some 2,189 UK-registered companies are involved in Russian money laundering and corruption cases involving a staggering £82billion. These are shocking figures.

Many of the multi-billionaire oligarchs at the heart of these cases are not simply dodgy businessmen but trusted members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and often called upon to do the regime’s dirty work.

And yet they have been welcomed by our financial institutions with open arms, not least in the City of London, which has consistently lobbied for a light-touch regulatory regime to help it attract business.

Kleptocrats and oligarchs have, as a result, found a safe haven for the billions they looted from their own people.

To fight this tide of dirty money, the Prime Minister has promised an Economic Crimes Bill, which is expected to reform Companies House in such a way that it is transformed from a registry of companies to a regulator of them, and the introduction of rules requiring those holding property through offshore shell companies to declare their identities.

But where is that Bill? We need it now. It should not take an international crisis to stir us into putting our house in order.

Can it really be in our nation’s interests for tens of thousands of properties to be owned by shadowy offshore trusts which hide their true ownership, or for there to be so few checks on establishing UK firms, when they have been used so often to transfer billions from Russia and former Soviet states, the fruits of one of the greatest thefts in history?

Meanwhile, the journalists, newspapers, websites and publishers – here and abroad – who have bravely sought to highlight oligarchs’ financial scandals find themselves confronting the awesome power of some of the most prestigious law firms in the world.

Our libel laws are being abused, data privacy legislation is being weaponised, and individuals and organisations are harassed via lawsuits known as Slapps (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) that are designed to intimidate, frighten and bankrupt. No wonder it’s called ‘lawfare’.

Some firms effectively offer dirt-digging services dedicated to seeking ‘kompromat’ – compromising material – on those looking to expose wrongdoing by their clients

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