Corruption UK: London as world's money laundering capital
London property prices are soaring in part due to the laundering of dirty money from foreign criminals. The problem of financial crime and corruption in Britain is vast, and British society is in denial about it
Unless you are a multi-millionaire, you may have noticed that London property prices are now out of reach of ordinary middle class families, especially those that cannot rely on wealthy parents to help them onto the ladder.
What may have escaped the attention of many is that this is, in part, a symptom of the largely ignored problem of corruption in Britain.
The Times newspaper reports -- this link is from the BBC as The Times is behind a paywall -- that foreign criminals are using the purchase of London properties to launder billions of pounds.
That is according to the National Crime Agency (NCA) whose economic crime command director Donald Toon said London property prices had been, "skewed", by crooks who, "want to sequester their assets here in the UK."
Surprise, surprise. Dirty money from places like Russia and Ukraine has been flooding into Britain for years, with organised crime syndicates and wealthy individuals operating under the assumption that Britain is a soft touch when it comes to dealing with financial crime and corruption.
The scale of the problem is vast, and it isn't only about real estate.
A report in The Independent earlier this month quoted international crime expert Roberto Saviano -- who has also exposed the infamous Neapolitan crime syndicate Camorra -- as saying London was now the leading centre for the laundering of money for the international drugs trade.
"The British treat it as not their problem because there aren't corpses on the street," said Saviano.
The Independent also quoted an NCA study as saying:
"We assess that hundreds of billions of US dollars of criminal money almost certainly continue to be laundered through UK banks, and their subsidiaries, each year."
Corruption in Britain is a subject that is rarely discussed in the public domain, with British politicians largely in a state of denial about the country's unimpressive record by international standards.
The world's leading anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International -- which laments the British tendency to view corruption as something that happens overseas -- ranks Britain at number 14 in its 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, where number 1 (Denmark) is the best performer, and number 174 (Somalia) is the worst.
Britain also fails to make the top 10 in rule of law indices. In June, the World Justice Project released its 2015 rankings for countries across the world. Britain came in at number 12.
Drilling down into the surveys there was even worse news. In 2013, the Transparency International Barometer on corruption in our state systems suggested 21 percent of Britons who came into contact with the relevant agencies of the state admitted that they or a member of their households had paid a bribe to the judiciary in the last 12 months.
While it is unclear whether respondents would have been competent to define "judiciary" -- do they mean judges, clerks of the courts, police officers? -- and the sample*, while not insignificant, was too small to draw hard and fast conclusions, these are worrying indications that should warn the authorities against complacency.
One thing is for sure, the world's financial criminals are running riot throughout London, and we don't appear to be doing enough about it.
*Transparency International told us that the overall survey was conducted among a representative sample of 1,000 people. Those who came into contact with the judiciary in the last year amounted to 8 percent of the total sample. 21 percent of them said they or a member of their household had paid a bribe to the judiciary
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