It was Cicero who once said, ‘The sinews of war are infinite money’. So as Joe Biden squares up to Russia it might just be time for Britain do something practical to help, and actually slam shut the spigots of ill-gotten Russian cash that flow through the City of London.
As Tom Newton Dunn writes in an excellent piece in today’s Times, the City of London has long been the place where oligarchs bury their golden acorns.
Corruption flourishes in the dark and so one reason London is beloved is that it’s so easy to create shell companies without declaring who actually owns them. Behind this fog of mystery, company directors can get up to no good.
Now Boris Johnson claims he’s cracking down on this sort of thing. Really? In answers to my parliamentary questions a junior minister has slipped out that in fact over 11,000 companies have still not listed – as they are required to – a ‘Person of Significant Control’. And despite this only 119 convictions for the offence has been brought. Pathetic.
As the excellent Duncan Hames at Transparency International, points out, last week’s G7 communique yesterday recognised “the need for action on corruption, including… tackling the misuse of shell companies” (para 48). Yet there’s no legislation this session to implement the Companies House white paper reforms that would get a grip of this.
Biden is right to get tough. Boris should start backing him up.