The City must not stand idly by in the face of dirty money on our streets and in our banks

Monday 07 March 2022 06h50

Bill Browder in a tweet told people today to avoid Russian stocks and bonds and “have some decency” (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Today, I and others from across the City of London will come together to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine as their national flag flies above us. It has now been over a week since Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine began and the deeply agonizing scenes unfolding across the country have shocked us all.

This morning’s show of support in Guildhall is designed to bring us together in these trying times. It will also implicitly demonstrate our unified condemnation of Russian military aggression and violation of the international rule of law.

Of course, it is also important to recognize that many Russians live and work in London and do not support the actions of the Russian government.

There is also a large Ukrainian community in the capital and we are extremely proud that they have chosen to settle in our city. In October 2020, we welcomed Ukrainian President Zelensky to Mansion House in recognition of this community.

In addition to symbolic steps towards unity, there must be practical steps to bring about a peaceful solution to the crisis as soon as possible. This includes efforts to ensure the rigorous implementation of sanctions and to combat money laundering. The financial and professional services sector already plays a crucial role in achieving both of these goals. Financial institutions across the UK are working with partners overseas to ensure the rapidly evolving sanctions regime is effective.

There have also been some restrictions on the access of Russian financial institutions to the SWIFT messaging service, while we have also seen the impact of the freezing of foreign assets of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation.

It is essential that the UK maintains its global reputation for high standards and high quality regulation in order to remain a trusted place to do business.

The Financial Action Task Force found that the UK has a well-developed and robust regime to combat money laundering. This assessment was also supported by the Basel AML Index, an independent annual ranking of money laundering and terrorist financing risks worldwide.

But we recognize that we cannot afford to be complacent. This is why the financial sector works closely with all agencies to fight economic crime.

The City of London Police are the head of the National Council of Chief Constables for Economic Crime and Cybercrime and have been at the forefront of efforts to combat money laundering, denial of assets and the development of financial investigation capacities. We will support efforts to strengthen monitoring of money laundering in the UK if necessary. International collaboration is also key to solving this cross-border problem.

The government’s changes to its approach to beneficial ownership will help clarify who owns property in the UK and prevent dirty money from entering our capital.

Beyond the financial sector’s response, we must not forget the terrible human toll that this war has taken on the Ukrainian people. The City Corporation’s charitable funder, City Bridge Trust, already helps organizations that support refugees arriving in the UK and will continue to do so.

Throughout its long history, the Square Mile has suffered the devastating impact of war. The hope that we would not see such scenes again in Europe in the 21st century was shattered by the Russian invasion.

The City must play its part to help resolve the current crisis by acting quickly and vigorously in concert with our own government. We stand in solidarity with Ukraine.