Yesterday I spoke in the Criminal Finances Bill debate in the House of Commons.
I welcome this Bill, it is extremely important in tacking corruption. However, there are ways that the Bill could be strengthened.
Transparency is crucial to tackling the very corruption and money laundering that this Bill wants to stop. However, the Bill makes no mention of tax havens, and the failure to take action on the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, which play a crucial role in facilitating tax evasion and avoidance, is a grave error. I want the Government to commit to the introduction of public registers of beneficial ownership in the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to shine a light on potential criminal activity or aggressive tax avoidance.
I welcome the introduction of ‘Unexplained Wealth Orders’ in this Bill. This is an important tool to tackle corruption and I am pleased that they will be applicable no matter where in the world the offence takes place. Unexplained Wealth Orders force those we suspect of corruption or seriously organised crime to explain where their money comes from. However, it should be extended to apply to politically exposed people (politicians or prominent public officials) inside, as well as outside Europe.
Finally, I want to see the Government introduce a ‘Magnitsky-style’ amendment to this Bill. Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who was tortured and murdered because he uncovered a huge $230 million tax fraud in Russia. I want to see an amendment, similar to what has been enacted in the United States, which would ensure foreign individuals involved in corruption and human rights abuses have their assets frozen, are denied right of entry to this country and be publicly named and shamed.
I think there is a strong cross-party support for introducing these amendments to this Bill and I will be pursuing this agenda over the coming weeks and months ahead.
You can watch my speech below: