Eddie Mair 4pm - 6pm
Britain gets tough
8 September 2018, 20:47 | Updated: 8 September 2018, 21:01
Vlad's really gone and done it now.
We did not blink when he annexed Crimea and we said nothing when he helped bomb Aleppo back to the Stone Age and we did not demur when anyone that criticised him seem to feel rather dead the next day but when he sent his grinning henchmen to kill people in the sleepy cathedral city of Salisbury, a stern response was required..
As Russia is demonstrating its ability to go to war, with a military exercise in its Eastern territory, including but not limited to: 36,000 tanks, 80 ships, 1,000 planes and 300,000 troops, our government has wisely decided to engage in cold financial warfare rather than the hot alternative.
If you have a home in what estate agents call prime central London, then sell, sell, sell because the Oligarchs are in the sights of our National Crime Agency and when the Russian money leaves those gilded palaces in South West London, there goes the property prices of Kensington and Chelsea.
All those empty, unlit, bolt-holes may all be sold at once, and with them will go the sky-high prices at the tip-top of the market.
The government is finally asking itself how an ordinary Russian man, scratching a living out of selling shower curtains in a Moscow flea market can, in the blink of an eye, have made enough money to buy a yacht the size of a Mediterranean island.
How have all those Oligarchs come by their unbelievably vast sums, and why do they all seem to be close personal friends of the Russian Premier? Could the two be in any way connected?
Dozens of these people that have bought their way into this country could have their assets seized in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning.
If it had not been for that, we would not have made a peep about all that dodgy money flowing through the country, because hiding sums for the international criminal super-rich is our speciality.
Those ten million pound penthouses on the tops of those charmless high rise blocks of executive flatlets that crowd the London skyline are quite often just safe assets in which to park giant wealth.
There's hardly ever anyone living in places like that. Just look up you will see the lack of lights on the upper floors of those towers. There's no one home. They are bank vaults with a view.
Whitehall suggests that The National Crime Agency could target more than 100 foreigners with 'unexplained wealth orders' in the coming months, mostly Russian.
That word “could” is the most important one in that sentence.
I very much doubt they will because washing money clean is what we do for a living – all those shiny buildings of accountants and lawyers and upscale estate agents, that's what they're for.
We sell ourselves as a place that oligarchs and drug barons and kleptocrats can park their stolen money, away from the tax man and the law.
When the government trumpeted recently that London is the top city in Europe for foreign direct investment, that's partly why.
Billions and billions of pounds of hookey money comes pouring in, and now we are up against it with Brexit, it seems a little doubtful that the government is going to acquire some principles and wave bye-bye to all that cash, stolen or not.
But don't take my word for it – British police were given new powers at the start of this year to go after foreigners in the UK that they think are as dodgy as three rouble note.
If they cannot show a legal source for all that cash they use to buy the parts of Knightsbridge that haven't already been scooped up by the Qataris, then the authorities can confiscate their cash – snatch it out of their hands like a toddler's lollipop.
In the first six months of having such powers, the government used them just three times. That's how keen they are to frighten the money away.
Security Minister Ben Wallace said of that dismal record: 'Watch this space.'
At least he didn't say to Putin 'go away and shut up' like the very un-scary defence secretary Gavin Williamson.
Downing Street responded to the failure to do anything meaningful by saying that Russian oligarchs linked to Vladimir Putin might suffer searches of their private flights.
That implies that up 'till now, private flights haven't been searched much.
If you are poor enough to have to fly in cattle class you will have an intimate body search on your way through Heathrow, even if all you have to on you is a bottle of water and a boarding card, if you can afford your own plane, then allow us to avert our eyes because Britain is open for shady business.
So don't hold your breath for a crackdown...they've got a lot of money and our ethical foreign policy is to do whatever those with the most money say we should do.
Arms sales to dictators who blow up schools and hospitals with the bombs that we flog them - certainly sir, how many would you like?
Tax havens for ill-gotten wealth...of course sir, which off-shore British dependency did you have in mind?
Want to sue some journalist for telling the truth about your vaunting criminality? Come right this way, we have the best laws in the world to protect those that can afford them.
Just try not to kill anyone while you are parking all that money you stole, because then we might go as far as to say that something should be done.