Scammers of the world, come to London. And bring your dirty money | Nick cohen
TThere is no better representation of the decline of the English upper class into the servant class of the world rich than Ben Elliot. On the one hand, the Conservative Party co-chair is now a rent collector, raising money for the Johnson administration from wealthy and native Russian hedge fund bosses.
On the other hand, he’s a real servant: a high-end lackey, certainly, praised by social magazines for his “little schoolboy charm”, but a lackey all the same. Elliot is one of the founders of the Quintessentially âconciergeâ service that gives the super rich everything they want: lunch on an iceberg; Sydney Harbor Bridge closed for a marriage proposal. There’s nothing Elliot won’t do to pay customers up to and including set up a meeting with our future ruler. Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is Elliot’s aunt and it seems no consideration of good form or good manners has kept her from monetizing the connection. It’s not that the prince seems to care. A Quintessentially advertisement interrupts a montage of photos of yachts and celebrities to quote His Royal Highness as saying he is “especially grateful” to Quintessentially for throwing a party he attended. Members of the Quintessentially Elliot Club donate to curators. The Tories gave Elliot Â£ 1.4million in taxpayer money in 2016 to ‘attract good, high-value individual investors to the UK through tailor-made programs’. If, upon their arrival, these valuable people showed how valuable they were by hiring Quintessentially and donating to the Tories, the circle would come full circle.
The floor has moved downstairs in the remnants of Tory days and much of British capitalism is now employed as the best servants money can buy. The law, public relations, the city, real estate agencies and banks know that easy riches come from serving a large part of the world where it is better to forget Balzac’s warning that the secret of a great fortune that no one can explain is invariably an undetected crime. For lack of an agreed name, I propose “Corruptistan” to cover Russia and the ex-Soviet states, the kleptocracies of Africa and the Middle East and probably soon China as the Communist elite learns to expatriate its wealth.
Given the secrecy of the financial system, police and regulatory funding and English libel law, no one can say how many in the UK live on immoral income. But two statistics and a quote give us a measure of the UK’s addiction culture. Graeme Biggar, of the National Economic Crime Center, said a “disturbing proportion” of the former Soviet Union’s criminal money is “laundered through British corporate structures”. In the meantime, Companies House has become a front organization for organized crime. It is so welcoming to criminals that 335,000 of its listed companies do not reveal the names of their beneficial owners. And 4,000 of the names it appears to reveal turn out, on close inspection, to belong to children two years of age or younger.
Last month, Professor Sadiq Isah Radda, a Nigerian anti-corruption official, summed up the consequences of the UK’s tolerance for theft. An opponent of corruption in Nigeria, home to countless online scams? A joke figure, you might think. But Radda spoke with a seriousness no government minister can muster when he said the UK was “the most notorious safe haven for looted funds in the world today”. The corruption we are facilitating has destabilized Nigeria and, he reportedly added, many other countries.
Last week a handful of MPs asked why the Conservatives were so particularly lenient on this particular crime. In 2017, they promised a law that would require foreign owners of UK property to reveal their identities. (The drive to allow private and state criminals to launder their wealth anonymously in London’s main property market was Radda’s main accusation against Boris Johnson.) Since then, this “anti-strategy” has not been heard of since. “daring corruption.
Likewise, the government has said it wants to prevent Companies House from being a crime scene where anyone can start a business without proof of identity and the most cursory checks. Even the Conservative Party seemed to agree that it shouldn’t be more difficult to apply for a passport than to start a shell company. But again, nothing happened. As for the recommendations of the Russian report on money laundering, they vanished as soon as they were made.
SNP’s Alison Thewliss asked, âI wonder who is benefiting from this delay. Is it the oligarchs and those to whom they donate? Pat McFadden, shadow chief secretary of Labor at the Treasury, asked Tory MPs why they thought ‘their party was such an attractive destination’ for Â£ 2million in gifts from Russian donors. The change must happen soon or not at all. Britain has profited so much from the wealth of the corrupt that we may soon be at the stage where we cannot afford to cleanse ourselves. So many people are making so much money, what was once outrageous has become normal. I believe this is why the security services and judges shrug their shoulders when oligarchs with ties to hostile foreign powers use the intimidating costs of the unreformed English legal system to threaten critics. No one likes tough questions about a nation’s guilty secrets, not even the men and women who are professionally compelled to ask them. Labor certainly thinks that fraud tolerance is now part of the government’s economic strategy and the Treasury is keen to relax the few protections that exist to compensate the financial services industry for the Brexit debacle.
Cynical readers may not care as long as the UK can wallow in streams of hot money. They should remember how many times crooks have tried to scam them. Online fraud is the crime you are most likely to suffer from, but nowhere in the government’s online safety bill is there a word about tackling the scammers that are popping up on the platforms. social media. Once the Conservatives started to close their eyes, it was impossible for them to stop.
You cannot profit from economic crimes committed abroad while enjoying the rule of law at home. The presence of the henchmen of the global plutocracy at the top of government and society shows that the UK no longer even bother to pretend it can.