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UK to target kleptocracy with revamp of public companies register

While the past week saw Britons pay their final respects to Queen Elizabeth II, the worldwide fight against financial crime rumbled on.

Napier AI
September 23, 2022

While the past week saw Britons pay their final respects to Queen Elizabeth II, the fight against financial crime rumbled on for policymakers and law enforcement bodies worldwide.

In London, Westminster introduced an economic crime bill aimed at stopping criminals laundering funds through UK-registered companies; German police raided the premises of a Russian oligarch suspected of money laundering; and the U.S. Treasury invited the American public to comment on the financial crime risks posed by digital assets.

Find out more on these stories below.

UK economic crime bill will require persons registering firms to reveal their true identities

The British government laid out plans to better guard the UK financial system against money launderers, kleptocrats, and fraudsters when the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill was presented before Parliament on 22 September 2022.

If passed, the bill would require anyone wishing to register a firm in the UK with Companies House to declare their genuine identity. Policymakers hope that the move will help crack down on organised crime groups, kleptocrats, and the financers of terrorism seeking to move their illicit funds through UK-based front companies.

The proposed bill expands on the scope of the Economic Crime Act 2022, which, in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, targeted Russian oligarchs seeking to camouflage their assets and funds through the UK’s economy.

Other proposals in the new bill include increasing the powers of law enforcement agencies to extract financial information of significance from companies in money laundering and terrorist financing investigations, as well as granting them more authority over the seizure, freezing, and confiscation of crime-linked crypto-assets.

A Companies House statement said that the new bill “will strengthen the UK’s reputation as a place where legitimate businesses can thrive while driving dirty money out of the UK.”

Read more on this story at Reuters, and access the Economic Crime Bill fact sheets here.

German authorities raid home of Russian oligarch suspected of money laundering and tax evasion

On 21 September 2022, agents of the German Federal Criminal Police Office, Bavarian state police officers, and a squad of specialist tax investigators mobilised on the Rottach-Egern home of Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov, whom they suspect of tax evasion worth millions of Euros and of laundering funds through his properties in Germany.

The joint task force swooped in on his lakeside residence as well as several other properties in the town, searching for evidence of his financial crimes. Usmanov, a billionaire with links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was not present during the raid, having fled Germany in late February 2022 after his entry to the European Union’s (EU) sanctions list.

Usmanov is reported to be facing two investigations by German authorities:

  1. The Frankfurt-based Prosecutor General accused Usmanov of having hidden the origins of multiple transactions through a vast and intricate network of shell companies between 2017 and 2022, amounting to a ‘multi-digit-million-euro sum’.
  2. The Munich State Prosecutor alleges that Usmanov, after being added to the EU sanctions list, had hired a security firm to manage Bavarian properties financially linked to him, then paid the company with frozen funds in contravention of a ban on him doing so.

Since the Ukraine conflict started, Germany has frozen €4.88bn worth of assets belonging to Russian nationals under the terms of the EU’s sanctions regime.

Read more on this story at The Guardian.

The US Treasury looks to public for feedback on risks posed by digital assets

On 19 September 2022, the U.S. Department of the Treasury filed a Request for Comment (RFC) to gather feedback from the American public on the perceived potential national security risks of digital assets.

Following President Joe Biden’s Executive Order, released last week, the American public can now join in the debate to shape the U.S. response to digital assets.

Published on the U.S Department of Treasury’s website, the U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said, “Without appropriate controls and enforcement of existing laws, digital assets can pose a significant risk to national security by facilitating illicit finance, such as money laundering, cybercrime and terrorist actions. As we work to implement the Illicit Finance Action Plan, hold bad actors accountable and identify potential gaps in existing enforcement, we look forward to receiving the public’s input on this urgent work.”

The full RFC, which will remain open for comment through till November 3, 2022, can be viewed and filled out here.

Earlier this year, the U.K. Treasury also called for public feedback in a now-closed inquiry into crypto-assets, stating that the Treasury Committee will examine the potential risks and opportunities associated with the use of crypto-assets, their impact on social inclusivity, and the possible need for regulatory change in the future.

For more, see the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

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