Starmer: PM must ‘get his house in order with dirty Russian money’
The government must “get its house in order” if it is serious about tackling “dirty money” from Russia entering the UK, Keir Starmer has said.
The Labor leader also called on the government to ‘go now and go hard’ with sanctions on Russia, as he said the PM should return all ‘Russia-related’ donations to the Conservative Party over the course of of the last 10 years.
Sir Keir made the comments after the Prime Minister announced that a new economic crime bill would “hit businesses” laundering Kremlin-linked Russian money through Britain.
It comes after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said British sanctions if Moscow invaded Ukraine would be tough on targeting “oligarchs” and “businesses across Russia”.
Sir Keir said Labor ‘stands united’ with the government against Russian aggression, but also said: ‘For a decade the Tories have not only failed to challenge Russian influence – they have permitted.”
He added: “If Boris Johnson is now serious about tackling Russian dirty money and influence, he should get his own house in order immediately.
“It means returning the millions of pounds of Russia-linked money that has been given to the Tories and their MPs since he became Prime Minister, and reversing his plans to allow unlimited donations from abroad.”
Sir Keir also called on the government to take other steps to limit the spread of corrupt money, including reforming Companies House, creating a register of foreign entities and a register of foreign agents and proposing new laws on counterintelligence.
In an interview with Channel 4 News, Sir Keir added: “We should go now and get tough on the sanctions.
“It is important, I must say that we remain in solidarity with our allies in the face of Russian aggression. It is very important that we stand united in the UK in the face of Russian aggression. ”
Tory MPs also criticized what they perceived as a lack of action to focus on Russian money being invested in the UK.
Bob Seely, member of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), said Britain was “a decade behind” the threat posed by Russian financial influence.
The Isle of Wight MP told the Palestinian Authority News Agency: “On Russia, we have known about this problem for years.
“The problem is that the front line with Ukraine is the border, the front line with Germany is the gas pipeline – and the front line with the UK is the City of London.
“We need to be wiser about how Putin’s regime acts and the potential threat to our institutions and values, and how we can protect them from a potential tsunami of bad money.”
Seely also said any legislation should be targeted enough to incorporate the growing threat posed by China.
CAF chairman Tom Tugendhat said it was time to clean up the money from British politics that came from Russia.
“Honestly, get it out and get it out now,” he told Times Radio.
All parties agreed that the proposed changes to the government’s economic crime legislation were needed long before the crisis with Ukraine developed.
Senior Labor MP Chris Bryant, who is also a member of the CAF, told PA: ‘It should have been in place before this whole saga, not after.
“Talk about the horse that ran away.”
Mr Bryant said warnings about Russian money came from the Foreign Affairs Committee in 2018 with its report on Moscow gold, as well as the Intelligence and Security Committee’s 2020 report on the Russian influence in British democracy.
He added: ‘It feels like the Prime Minister finally woke up to contraception the day after conception.’
But the Prime Minister, speaking after a Cobra meeting on border tensions between Ukraine and Russia, defended the UK’s record of tackling Russian monetary influence at home.
He told broadcasters: ‘I don’t think it’s fair to say the UK hasn’t made a lot of dirty money, whether from Russia or elsewhere.
Mr Johnson added: ‘What we want to do now is strengthen the package we have, strengthen the measures we have against potentially ill-gotten Russian money, whether here or anywhere… including we have the responsibility, with new measures that will hit the companies and the concerns that I have spoken about.
“But also open up the Matryoshka doll, if you want – you know what I’m talking about – so we can see… who really owns the companies we’re talking about, who really owns the properties we’re talking about, and those metrics, yes, we do. will present on the basis of the economic crime bill.
He signaled that the Bill would be introduced in the next Queen’s Speech.