Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has created a new-found resolve among the world’s financial centers. They are now committed to seizing the money Putin and oligarchic cronies have stolen from the Russian people and hidden in their territories. Given the enormous media attention on where it is stashed (examples here, here, and here), that may sound straightforward.
It is not. Even bad guys have rights, and as Radha Ivory reminds, that includes the right to their property. To confiscate the assets Putin and cronies have squirrelled away outside Russia will require proof that (a) no matter what ownership records show, the assets really do belong to one of them and (b) the assets were acquired with the proceeds of corruption or other criminal activity.
London has been one of the premier destinations of dirty Russian money. James Mather, a barrister of the U. K’s Serle Court, explains below what the British government must do to fulfill its pledge to confiscate every shilling of stolen Russian money hidden in its territory.
The gloves have come off in the United Kingdom’s effort to cleanse itself of ‘dirty money’, or so we are told. To signal its commitment, the UK government has sped up new legislation, but its contents seem unlikely to advance matters very far. There is amendment of the legislation for Unexplained Wealth Orders (totemic but misunderstood powers that are of quite limited practical use) and new requirements to register the beneficial ownership of property (as always easily evaded by clever structuring or simple lies). What has really been lacking all these past years is harder to legislate for: the adequate enforcement of the asset recovery laws that exist.Continue reading