Why I’m backing the ‘Magnitsky’ Amendment

In case you missed it, earlier this week I wrote a piece for the Times on why I’m backing the ‘Magnitsky’ amendment to the Criminal Finances Bill to ensure Britain does not become a safe haven for money launderers.

Britain must not be a safe haven for money launderers

Far too many people enjoy luxurious lives in Britain funded by laundered money and free from the consequences of atrocities they commit in their own country. To tackle this issue I am a sponsor of the Magnitsky amendment to the Criminal Finances Bill, which will freeze the UK assets of those responsible for gross human rights violations abroad. I am one of many MPs from different political parties promoting this change to a new law designed to tackle corruption.

Our amendment is named after a Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was tortured and killed in a Moscow prison after blowing the whistle on a $230 million Russian government fraud. He found that money paid to settle tax bills was siphoned off to Russian government officials. When he went public, the very people whose crimes he had uncovered arrested him. The Magnitsky amendment targets those who have persecuted whistleblowers, journalists, human rights activists and opposition politicians.

The Criminal Finances Bill is intended to tackle the scourge of corrupt money that finds its way to the UK. Some of it ends up invested in high-value properties in London — 10 per cent of properties in Westminster are owned by companies registered in tax havens. Other laundered money goes into the financial markets.

Our amendment places a duty on ministers to ask the High Court to place a designation order on people who were involved in, or profited from, the worst human rights abuses. Once an individual is subject to a designation order, the enforcement authorities will have a duty to freeze their British assets.

More than £100 billion is laundered through Britain each year but only £100 million — a fraction of the amount — is frozen. The Magnitsky amendment will close gaps in the law. Individuals and NGOs can also take matters into their own hands and apply for designation orders, sending a clear signal that inaction by the government and enforcement authorities is not acceptable.

Last year the government emphasised its commitment to tackling corruption. Ministers now need to show they will make good on this pledge by passing the Magnitsky amendment into law. Britain cannot be a safe haven for criminals with blood on their hands.

Read the full piece in The Times here