Corrupt Money in the UK
Flickr/Creative Commons – Kathleen Conklin
The UK is currently a safe haven for corrupt individuals looking launder the proceeds of their illicit wealth, enjoy a luxury lifestyle and cleanse their reputations.
The UK economy sees trillions of pounds flow through it every single year. Inevitably some of this money is corrupt wealth – stolen public funds and bribes – which are given a seal of approval by passing through the UK.
The UK’s professional services industry plays a central role, unwitting and complicit, in this money laundering process. They help make corrupt wealth appear clean before it is invested into the UK or elsewhere.
Before corrupt wealth is laundered through the UK it is often moved through complex corporate structures based in secrecy jurisdictions. This includes the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, such as the British Virgin Islands and Jersey.
There are no public records of companies based in secrecy jurisdictions, which helps conceal the origin of their funds and information about their owners.
Once illicit wealth has been cleansed, the UK offers a range of opportunities for corrupt individuals to enjoy it: high-end property, sports clubs, legitimate businesses, residency visas, expensive cars, yachts, jewellery and art can all be purchased with impunity. At the moment the UK is recovering just a fraction of the corrupt wealth moving through its economy.
With the help of defamation lawyers and public relations experts corrupt individuals can start their life afresh and hide their past crimes. With the help of the UK’s exclusive educational institutions, they can embed their children in society’s élite and mix in the right social groups, gaining valuable access and influence.
Facilitating global corruption comes at a cost, both to the country where it occurs and to the UK.
Corruption abroad degrades essential public services, hinders economic development and causes insecurity. When UK professionals facilitate this through laundering corrupt money it damages the UK’s international reputational and poses a potential security risk.
To help fight global corruption the UK needs to:
- detect, freeze and seize corrupt funds that move through the UK economy
- increase company transparency in its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies
- reform private sector defences against money laundering