Author: Peter Walker
UK action against overseas nationals with dubious sources of money, notably Russians, is starting to have an impact, not least as a deterrent effect, Theresa May has argued.
Concern about people from outside the UK using the country, notably London, as a base in which to stash corrupt or criminal gains, has accelerated in recent years, with greater action urged against some Russian nationals in the wake of the Salisbury nerve agent attack.
The government is reviewing so-called tier 1 visas, by which wealthy people can live in the UK if they show they will invest at least £2m, under a process begun in 2015 designed to tighten checks over how arrivals acquired their money.
Separate enforcement action has been taken against some overseas nationals under so-called unexplained wealth orders, through which people are required to show a coherent and legal trail for their money.
In March, the home secretary, Amber Rudd, said Home Office officials had been asked to review the cases of more than 700 wealthy Russians who settled in the UK under this system.
Asked about the progress of the clampdown by reporters while en route to the UN general assembly in New York, the prime minister said the review of tier 1 visas was “to make sure that the visa system there is doing the job it is intended to do, and that people aren’t able to, in some sense, play the system”.
Separately, May said, the National Crime Agency “has been taking strong action against any illicit financial activity that they see, and of course their role isn’t just about Russia”.
This was starting to see results, she argued: “They have been seeing in some areas a change in behaviour from some people. For example with the unexplained wealth orders, just having those has actually meant some people have changed their behaviour and are now playing by the rules.
“The point is you want to see the impact of them. So it’s not just a question of putting an unexplained wealth order in place, it’s actually just the fact of having that possibility, that changes people’s behaviour such that they play by the rules and regulations, and it has an impact.”