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Money Laundering

Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 5 March 2019

The Government have made a very strong commitment to tackling money laundering. Recent initiatives include the creation of the economic crime strategic board and the National Economic Crime Centre. We have also strengthened anti-money laundering supervision through the creation of the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision, and we are reforming suspicious activity reports and tackling the abuse of Scottish limited partnerships.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury knows better than most of us about the nefarious impact of Russia, and I send my best wishes to his constituency, to the Skripals and, most of all, to the family and friends of Dawn Sturgess, one year after the Salisbury attack.

Yesterday, Prince Charles ended up being drawn into the troika laundromat scandal, with money linked via a maze of shell companies back to the Magnitsky case. Criminal and legitimate money is sloshing around together in our banking system. What are the Government doing to close the loopholes and stop legitimising the proceeds of kleptocracy?

I thank the hon. Lady for her kind remarks about my constituency. I am familiar with the reports that appeared in The Guardian yesterday evening about the case to which she has referred. Following the response by the Financial Action Task Force to a two-year review of our standards in the United Kingdom, the Government recognise that we are world leaders in this regard, but there are some outstanding concerns about reports of suspicious activity in the banking sector. Work is ongoing, and I will take a close interest in it.

Can the Minister quantify the amount of extra tax that the Government have collected since 2010 that would otherwise have been unpaid, as a result of the measures they have taken to tackle money laundering?

I cannot give my hon. Friend the exact figure, but we are anxious to crack down on suspicious activity when reports give us reason to believe that further measures are necessary. We have taken action in improving cross-governmental co-ordination, and we are working closely with the Home Office on the suspicious activity reports.

The Financial Secretary was unable to answer this question yesterday, so I shall ask it again. Can the Economic Secretary explain why, although the call for evidence on extending corporate liability for economic crime closed two years ago, we have yet to receive a response or see any action?

The Ministry of Justice is looking at that, and will present its response to the call for evidence later this year.

May I suggest that the answer to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) is £185 billion?

I always take my right hon. Friend’s words very seriously, and I am sure that he must be right.

Britain is now a world leader in financial transparency and dealing with money laundering owing to the public register of beneficial ownership. What action do the Government propose to take to stop those standards being undermined by Crown dependencies, which rely on the British passport and British defence protection, but operate in a much more opaque manner?

We are committed to introducing those registers by 2023. Since 2017, we have worked closely with law enforcement agencies through the mechanism of the exchange of notes with the overseas territories, and that has led us to unexplained wealth orders and the forfeiture of bank accounts.