Today I and others from across the City of London will gather to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine as its national flag flies above us. It is now over a week since Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine began and the deeply distressing scenes being played out across the country have shocked us all.
This morning’s show of support at Guildhall is designed to bring us together during these testing times. It will also implicitly demonstrate our unified condemnation of Russia’s military aggression and breach of the international rule of law.
Of course, it is also important to recognise that many Russians live and work in London and do not support the Russian government’s actions.
There is also a sizeable Ukrainian community in the capital and we are extremely proud that they have chosen to make our city their home. In October 2020, we hosted Ukrainian President Zelensky at Mansion House in acknowledgement of this community.
As well as symbolic steps for unity, there must be practical measures to bring about a peaceful solution to the crisis as soon as possible. This includes efforts to ensure the robust implementation of sanctions and tackle money laundering. The financial and professional services sector is already playing a crucial role in delivering on both of these objectives. Financial institutions across the UK are working with partners overseas to ensure that the rapidly evolving sanctions regime is effective.
There have also been some restrictions on Russian financial institutions accessing the SWIFT messaging service, while we have also seen the impact of freezing the overseas assets of the Russian Federation Central Bank.
It is critical 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 has found the UK has a well-developed and robust regime to combat money laundering. This assessment has also been supported by the Basel AML Index, an independent annual ranking of money laundering and terrorist financing risk around the world.
But we recognise that we cannot afford to be complacent. That is why the financial sector works closely with all agencies to combat economic crime.
The City of London Police is the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Economic and Cyber Crime and has been at the forefront of efforts to combat money laundering, asset denial, and development of financial investigation capabilities. We will support efforts to strengthen money laundering supervision in the UK where necessary. International collaboration is also key to tackling this cross-border issue.
The government’s changes to its approach on beneficial ownership will help to make it clearer who owns property across the UK and prevent dirty money entering our capital.
Looking beyond the financial sector’s response, we must not forget the terrible human toll that this war is having on the Ukrainian people. The City Corporation’s charity funder City Bridge Trust already helps organisations supporting refugees arriving in the UK and will continue to do so.
Throughout its long history the Square Mile has experienced the devastating impact of war. The hope that we would not see such scenes again in Europe in the 21st century has been shattered by the Russian invasion.
The City must play its part to help resolve the current crisis by acting swiftly and robustly in line with our own government. We stand with Ukraine.