Press release 22nd Feb 2022

Transparency measures must be fast-tracked to kick-start dirty money crackdown

February 22, 2022 - Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of new Russia sanctions, Transparency International UK urges the British Government to fast-track measures to crack down on dirty money.

Announcing a 'first tranche' of measures in the Commons, the Prime Minister said they would impose asset freezes and travel bans on five banks and three high-net-worth individuals with links to the Kremlin. 

New analysis from Transparency International UK has identified at least £1.5 billion worth of UK property owned by Russians accused of financial crime or with links to the Kremlin. Most of this property is held by secretive offshore companies. The true figure for illicit wealth invested in the UK is likely to be far higher, with almost 90,000 properties across the country owned by opaque companies which prevent the British Government, law enforcement and the public from knowing who truly owns them.

The British Government is now committed to bringing forward legislation that would unmask the true owners of secretive companies owning UK property and give greater powers to Companies House to prevent the abuse of UK companies. To make the greatest impact on corrupt wealth, these measures should be implemented as soon as possible.

To achieve this, legislation for the Economic Crime Bill which would bring about these changes should be laid before Parliament as soon as possible. The time period of implementing the measures within the Bill should also be minimised, with the transition period to implement the register of overseas entities owning UK property being significantly reduced.


Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK, said:

“The Government can only take action against assets it knows belong to those it now sanctions. Measures to reveal who really owns the companies that hold property assets here are needed urgently and should be implemented without delay.

“The UK should now also do everything in its power to ensure Britain’s Overseas Territories are able to open their company registers to public scrutiny this year. By taking swift action on corporate secrecy now, the UK can be clear it intends those with dirty money should have nowhere to hide.”

Companies registered in the UK, Britain’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are also used to hide the flow of illicit funds around the world. Transparency International UK identified 2,189 of these entities used in 48 Russian money laundering and corruption cases. These cases involved more than £82 billion worth of funds diverted by rigged procurement, bribery, embezzlement and the unlawful acquisition of state assets. 

The UK’s Government should assist Britain’s Overseas Territories in ensuring their beneficial ownership registers are publicly accessible this year.