29 January 2022
Why has Boris Johnson always winked at the huge amount of dirty Russian money pouring into London while publicly parading his anti-Putin views?
The reason is that some of this money has kept finding its way into Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party. (A report* published in December by the Royal Institute of International Affairs, ‘Chatham House’, not a radical left-wing organization, calculated that ‘between 2010 and 2019 the Conservative Party received £3.5 million from donors with a Russian business background … [and that] … since then the volume seems to have increased.’) This is why Johnson, then foreign secretary, shrugged his shoulders when in 2018 Tom Tugendhat’s House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee pressed him on the need for more government urgency on the matter (Moscow’s Gold: Russian Corruption in the UK, paras. 59-61). This is why, by then prime minister, he sat on Dominic Grieve’s ISC Russia Report until after the general election in December 2019 on the specious grounds that it required vetting by the intelligence community (it had already been approved by its agencies). Now it’s official: the Conservative Party-supporting Daily Mail has given prominence to a public warning from the Biden administration, itself echoing a report just published by the Center for American Progress (CAP), that any Western economic sanctions prompted by a Russian invasion of Ukraine might well be nullified because of all the laundered money swilling around in ‘Londongrad’ over which President Putin has indirect control. This paragraph in the CAP Report, which is one of four actions it recommends to target the Russian oligarchs, is well worth quoting in full:
‘Establish a standing U.S.-U.K. joint counter-kleptocracy working group. The United States and the United Kingdom should work closely together to counter Russian kleptocrats. The United Kingdom, in particular, has become a major hub for Russian oligarchs and their wealth, with London gaining the moniker “Londongrad.” Uprooting Kremlin-linked oligarchs will be a challenge given the close ties between Russian money and the United Kingdom’s ruling Conservative Party, the press, and its real estate and financial industry. The United States should propose creating the working group in part to prod stronger action from the U.K. government.’
Keep this in mind when you see Johnson strutting his anti-Putin stuff in the next few days, now because the prime suspect … sorry … minister is desperate to divert attention from the ‘partygate scandal’.
*Chatham House Research Paper, ‘The UK’s kleptocracy problem’, 8 December 2021, esp. ch. 5, ‘Reputation laundering and political influencing’ [Open Access]. See also Dan Sabbagh’s ‘Ministers accused of failing to stem flow of Russian ‘dirty money’ into UK’, The Guardian, 4 Feb. 202 , Nick Cohen’s ‘Pulled by a current of Tory indolence, Britain flounders in a sea of dirty money’, The Guardian, 5 Feb. 2022, and Patrick Wintour’s ‘No 10 pressured me to drop anti-money laundering measures, says ex-minister’, The Guardian, 15 February 2022.