We are sightseeing in Londongrad. The city got its nickname because it is here that wealthy Russians choose to buy luxury homes.
Some are behind the high walls, others are at street level. some in the West, others in North London, but they all have in common that the owner does not live here.
Author and journalist, Oliver Bullough, is one of the guides who takes us through some of London’s most expensive and grand estates.
Many of the owners were sanctioned after Russia started its war against Ukraine, but not all of them.
Rolled the red carpet for the Kleptocrats’ party
He believes that London has not nearly as bad a reputation as the city deserves.
– This city is the largest laundry in the world. This is where the corrupt and criminals of the world come with their money to launder, invest and spend. He says this is a massive scandal on a geopolitical level that very few people know about.
Bullough adds that one should focus on all the London oligarchy, regardless of nationality, because they are undermining democracy.
Greet them with open arms
Anti-corruption activist Roman Borisovich believes that London has welcomed criminals with open arms.
London rolled out the red carpet and embraced the oligarchy. Not only did they sell their properties, they allowed them to invest in football clubs and sponsor cultural events. It was a show of soft power, Borisovich says.
He is part of the organization ClampK (Anti-Moneylaundring Committee at Kleptocrats Properties), which has run guided tours through Londongrad for six years.
The end of the golden visa
But a year ago, then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that the London oligarchs would have nowhere to hide.
Since then, more than 1,200 oligarchs and corporations have faced sanctions and the so-called golden visas for foreign investors have expired.
– They took a big step like a couch potato takes a big step by getting off the couch. Those sanctions against many oligarchs and new legislation on transparency around corporate and property ownership are all well and good, but now the hard work begins.
We must prosecute and investigate them. So far, I haven’t seen any signs that the government is willing to do this, Borisovich says.
– You can be a conspirator and say maybe it’s because they love money and maybe it’s true, but if you’re a realist it’s hard work. It is not easy to investigate such sums of money, you have to face some of the best lawyers in the world who are getting paid by some of the richest men in the world. It will take several years, so there are many reasons for that, he continues.
Pathetic dealing with dirty money
Labor MP Margaret Hodge says this is a problem that politicians on both sides of the House of Commons recognize.
London’s dirty money costs our economy about £300 billion a year, which is twice what we spend on health services in this country, says Hodge.
Hodge says Britain’s handling of the corrupt has been pathetic.
“Part of the reason this happened here is partly because of history, partly because of our relationship with tax havens and because we have a whole army of auditors, advisors and bankers ready to facilitate that,” she continues.
Figures released by the UK government show that £18.39 billion worth of Russian assets have been frozen and reported. But Hodge can tell of people who were punished but still allowed to spend up to £600,000 a year on so-called necessities.
– That’s more than people earn in their entire lives in the constituency I represent, says Hodge.
– Nobody did anything to stop this
Polo says politicians of all parties have little will to fight when it comes to London’s rungs.
– Since the end of the British Empire, since the 1950s, we’ve had Labor governments, Conservative governments, coalition governments and none of them have done anything to stop this, he says.
Do not freeze, but issued
Next year shall revolve around the investigation of the source of the wealth and if it is found to be corruption we shall confiscate the value in the same manner as you would with any other stolen value. He says that this is money that can be used to build Ukraine.
But Bullough adds that it is not just Russian oligarchs who are a problem in London.
– We have oligarchs from Malaysia, Venezuela, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Kazakhstan, if there is a place for them to come, it is here, he concludes.
“Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer.”