By: Pramod Thomas
THE UK has imposed sanctions on 22 individuals, including Indian businessmen, linked to corruption under a new anti-corruption regime.
The brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta were accused of serious corruption in South Africa.
Individuals across South Africa, South Sudan and Latin America were also targeted with the asset freezes and travel bans.
This is the first time the UK has imposed sanctions for international corruption.
Under the new regime, 14 Russians involved in a massive tax fraud uncovered by the lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who later died in custody, were also sanctioned, the BBC report added.
The others in the list include Sudanese businessman Ashraf Seed Ahmed Hussein Ali – dubbed Al Cardinal – accused of misappropriating state assets in South Sudan and three individuals accused of serious corruption in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab told MPs the UK had an important role to play in combating corruption.
“Corruption has an immensely corrosive effect on the rule of law, on trust in institutions, it slows development, it drains the wealth of poorer nations, it keeps their people trapped in poverty. It poisons the well of democracy around the world,” Raab said.
“Our status as a global financial centre makes us an attractive location for investment… but it also makes us a honey pot, a lightning rod for corrupt actors who seek to launder their dirty money through British banks or through British businesses.”
Raab added that the new sanctions regime, taken partly in tandem with measures in the US, would provide “an additional powerful tool to hold the corrupt to account”.
According to the new regime, individuals “involved in some of the world’s most serious cases of corruption” will no longer be able to channel their money through UK banks or enter the country, a statement from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said.
Labour has welcomed the announcement, but said law enforcement needed the resources to support investigations, describing the current rate of prosecutions for economic crime as ‘woefully low’.
“If he’s serious about what he’s saying, he needs to put his money where his mouth is. We need to know that this announcement isn’t just a gloss on the surface of a grubby system which underneath signals business as usual,” said shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy.
She also criticised a “tangled network of financial interests and cosy relationships in the heart of government”.
US secretary of state Anthony Blinken said: “Together, along with other allies and partners, we will seek to promote our shared values with similar tools. Corrupt actors, and their facilitators, will not have access to our financial systems.”
According to government figures, more than 2 per cent of global GDP is lost to corruption every year, and corruption increases the cost of doing business for individual companies by as much as 10 per cent.