Transparency International published a report last year, which, relying only on public sources of information, identified 160 properties in the UK, together worth £4.4bn, that had been bought by what it called "high-corruption-risk individuals". Most of those properties were in London, and half of them were within three miles of Buckingham Palace -- and that is just a fraction of the true total. "There is currently no credible deterrent in place for money-laundering failings from estate agents," the report noted.


In order to prosecute a foreign crook in Britain, you need to prove their money originated in a crime of some kind, and that requires evidence from overseas. Essentially, if you want to prosecute a Kremlin insider, you need evidence from the Kremlin, which naturally it will not provide, and that stops investigations from progressing. And this is not just a British problem. After France, Switzerland and the Netherlands received information from Browder that some of the stolen $230m had been spent in their countries, they froze the assets in question -- but their criminal investigations are yet to secure convictions. Only US prosecutors have managed a result, and even that was just an out-of-court settlement, without an admission of guilt by the defendant. "You cannot underestimate the technical hurdle that is bringing the evidence to a British standard for a British court," Hicks said.

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