Dirty Russian money and its corruption of London’s financial and property markets holds the headlines. But it has been revealed that much of that money laundering took place in leafy Hertfordshire.
In recent weeks, London has been the focus of conversations on what to do with visible Russian capital and assets since the invasion of Ukraine. Less obvious may be the involvement of the village of Elstree, in Hertfordshire. In recent years it has been one location through which large quantities of less-visible Russian cash has been allowed to flow unchecked.
London, the world’s money-laundering centre
In 2021, Tortoise reporter Paul Caruana Galizia warned that the UK is already a money laundering hive, on track to get worse.
The money laundering took place at the Studio, an unassuming single story building with the appearance of a public convenience. The company, Lindmark Resources, apparently a “trade agent for textiles”, allegedly fronted for organisations which charge a fee for setting up UK registered companies.
They take criminally gained money from Russia and turn it into legitimate capital in the UK. This money is channelled through places like the Studio from shell companies set up in offshore havens, under false names and fraudulent signatures, ‘going from dirty to clean’.
Lindmark reportedly amassed $178,000 a day between 2013 and 2014. Whilst this income was received by a bank account in Latvia, Companies House has recorded an income by the company for the same period of only £16,600.
The man on record as the company’s director is a Latvian dentist called Ali Moulaye, who claims he was “used” after lending his passport to “good friends”. Local business owners in Elstree say they knew nothing about Moulaye, nor the allegations involving their village.
Economic Crime Act
After being repeatedly delayed by the government, the Economic Crime Act was passed last month. It aims to ensure the government can move quicker to impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Act includes a new mechanism, the Register of Overseas Entities, which will mean lawyers will have to declare in public records the beneficiaries of properties bought in the UK. This will apply to all properties in England bought in the last 20 years.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak said, “Our Economic Crime Act will enable us to crack down harder and faster on dirty money and those who support Putin and his regime.”
Labour welcomes the changes, which Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said had been repeatedly called for by the party, but says that the timeline for current property beneficiaries to declare needs to be shorter.
Changes to the Companies House register, exploited by shell companies such as those run from The Studio, have yet to be addressed.