Anti-corruption organization Transparency International estimates that Russians accused of financial crimes or with close ties to the Kremlin own real estate in Great Britain worth just over SEK 19 billion.
Many properties are located in the most prestigious and expensive areas of London, such as Belgravia, Knightsbridge and Mayfair in the Westminster borough – or in Kensington and Chelsea.
Prices pushed up
The phenomenon known as Londongrad, among other things, caused property prices to skyrocket in London’s housing shortage. But it has also led to formerly thriving neighborhoods that now lack life.
– There are properties that these people buy in order to actually live in them. Then there is real estate, which they buy as a pure investment. The lights are always out there, and nobody’s home. You could say it created a kind of desert in London, says Tom Keating of the famous British think tank RUSI.
Tom Keating is one of many who have long called for tougher action to stop Russian money laundering. Another is Dame Margaret Hodge, MP for the Labor Party.
– Margaret Hodge says: – It is so tragic that Russia’s occupation of Ukraine because of the question of dirty money, especially Russian dirty money, has become the subject of political interest.
Frozen assets in the billions
When Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, the situation changed.
Since then, the British government has sanctioned more than 1,200 individuals with ties to the Kremlin. Russian assets totaling SEK 225 billion have been frozen. In August last year, new legislation came into effect which means UK property owners can no longer hide behind shell companies of unknown origin. Other new legislation is in the works.
But both Margaret Hodge and Tom Keating believe more action is needed to put an end to London testimony.
– If the United Kingdom continues on the beaten path, then in five years we can say that it is the end of the London testimony. But the big question is whether the government really has the stamina and willingness to continue in the same way it did last year. It remains to be seen, says Tom Keating.
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