A potential £1bn of proceeds from political extortion are up for grabs if the UK Government changes how such illicit proceeds are seized and confiscated.
The Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies (CFCS) has highlighted in a new report how the UK Government could win up to £1bn of grand corruption and kleptocracy proceeds from criminals such as oligarchs linked to Russia.
However, Maria Nizzero, a research fellow at the CFCS and author of the report, believes the UK’s asset recovery mechanisms have to move from a “freeze to seize” sanction-based approach to one that achieves “permanent confiscation”.
Nizzero and her team suggest that tracing assets and procuring evidence of underlying extortion pose the greatest challenges when dealing with grand corruption and government extortion.
” Assets of most individuals under Russian sanctions should already be confiscated. This shows that the UK’s asset recovery mechanisms are not up to the task”, Nizzero said.
However, Nizzero and her team at the CFCS have suggested a pathway for Government to confiscate proceeds from extortion and preserve human rights.
Firstly, her team recommends that policymakers should view kleptocracy from an organised crime angle and apply racketeering provisions.
Second, policymakers should engage in more cross-jurisdictional collaboration, sharing information and improving coordination to strengthen international asset recovery mechanisms.
Lastly, a full reverse burden of proof where the onus is placed on the defendant to establish a particular issue should be accompanied by “human rights and due process protections”.
Despite the urgency to help sanction Russian individuals, it must be made clear that sanctions “cannot be used” l to deal with grand corruption and kleptocracy, Nezzaro said.
“Confiscating the proceeds of grand corruption and kleptocracy. . . is not going to be an easy task. Every element of future legislation will need to be carefully drafted that would allow the targets an easy escape, Nizzero said.