The long time tax justice campaigner Prem Sikka has frequently pointed the finger at what he calls the “pinstripe mafia”. This is the army of professionals who enable the flow of dirty money through London. Accountants, lawyers, bankers and PR agents have helped corrupt officials, tax dodgers and other criminals.
In parliament this week the Conservative MP Bob Seely expressed his frustration at lawyers working for Russian clients to intimidate the media.
The war in Ukraine has yet again highlighted the role of London as the dirty money capital of the world. The government has scrambled to respond. On Monday, the Prime Minister introduced a long promised Economic Crime Bill. This includes many measures that we’ve campaigned for, including more transparency over offshore owners of UK property.
It’s been known for years that the UK has been a favourite destination for ill gotten gains. It’s taken an international crisis in Ukraine to make the government act. This will be a real step forward.
At Tax Justice UK we have been working alongside other campaigners to push the government to act. This could be the best chance in a generation to seal up the loopholes that allow London to be home to so much dirty money. The public clearly cares, with over 117,000 signing our petition for action.
New laws are good but we also need a change in culture. Professionals should think really hard about the role that they play as gatekeepers against bad behaviour. The government also needs to invest much more in enforcing existing laws. Our friends at Spotlight on Corruption have set out what this should look like.
Finally we also want to add a personal note of thought if you or your family have been affected by the conflict in Ukraine. Let's hope the coming days bring swift action to de-escalate, end the fighting and restore a free Ukraine.