Catherine McKinnell MP has warned that despite new legislation, the UK will remain a safe haven for billionaire oligarchs linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime if the Government fails to properly fund the agencies tasked with investigating and punishing financial crime.

Challenging the Foreign Secretary in the House of Commons, Catherine stated that “a vital way to help Ukraine is to stop those who have stolen money from the Russian people hiding it in our capital city, but after years of austerity our hollowed-out enforcement agencies simply don’t have the resources to go toe to toe with billionaire oligarchs”.

“The world’s other major financial centre, New York, doesn’t have the same problem and it takes a much more robust and well-resourced approach to tackling illicit finances”.

Catherine warned that Foreign Secretary that “Without proper funding of our law agencies that can tackle illicit funding, we can have all the tough laws in the world, but people will still see the UK as a soft touch”.

In response, the Foreign Secretary stated that “We have established a cross Government taskforce to enforce the laws that we are putting in place on oligarchs. I think it is important to note that the legislation that we passed yesterday will reduce the bureaucracy required to sanction oligarchs, so it is going to help target our resources better”.

Following the exchange, Catherine commented:

“I have long campaigned for more transparency and enforcement in financial services. Early in my time in Parliament, I helped set up the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Corruption to look at these issues in the UK and globally.

“The influence of dirty money stolen from the Russian people by Putin’s cronies must be eradicated from our country. Yet despite warning after warning, the Government failed to act, leaving Britain as the destination of choice for oligarchs. It should not have taken an invasion of Ukraine for Ministers to take action.

“The Government has now finally passed an Economic Crime Act, but without proper funding for the agencies that enforce the law, I fear that oligarchs and economic criminals will continue to see the UK as a safe destination for their ill-gotten wealth”.