A crackdown on corrupt politicians, tax evaders and criminals from across the globe looms in the United Kingdom. Tough laws are planned to stop such people from moving ill-gotten money to the country or buying property there, according to a report in London.
The existing weak laws are being taken advantage of by such corrupt who launder stolen wealth through London’s banks.
The National Crime Agency estimates that £100bn of tainted cash is laundered in the UK annually with a large percentage going into real estate.
But all that is about to end under the criminal finances bill, published on Thursday.
Whereas the current dispensation precludes the authorities from seizing property from foreign criminals except they have been convicted in their country of origin, the new bill seeks to empower the appropriate agencies to force suspects to explain the source of their wealth.
Thus, the Serious Fraud Office, HM Revenue and Customs and other agencies can apply to the high court for an order asking a suspect to explain how he obtained the funds to purchase a property, jewelry or other property worth more than £100, 000.
The bill could come into force as early as spring 2017.
Some politically exposed Nigerians are believed to have acquired property in England with stolen public funds.
These include the late former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyesigha, and former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, who is currently serving a jail term in the country for money laundering.
The bill also seeks to invest the police with more power to freeze bank accounts and confiscate assets such as jewelry and art, which are harder to seize under current laws.
Security Minister Ben Wallace said of the bill: “We will not stand by and watch criminals use the UK to launder their dirty money or fund terrorism.”