Last month, the UK Foreign Affairs Committee published written evidence submitted by The Sentry as part of its recently launched inquiry into “Autocracies and UK Foreign Policy.” Similar to Congressional oversight over the executive branch in the United States, all parts of the British government have committee oversight. The Foreign Affairs Committee in particular is regarded as influential in guiding government decision-making given its mandate to examine the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) expenditure, administration, and policy.
The Foreign Affairs Committee’s “Autocracies and UK Foreign Policy” inquiry will scrutinize both direct foreign policy relationships with autocracies and the ways in which autocracies interact with the rules-based international system. The Chair of the Inquiry Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, has stated that the challenge from autocratic states today is something that all democracies, including the UK, must face. Through the interconnectedness of the international financial system and global policy interests, the actions of autocratic states transcend borders. Democratic states, including the UK, therefore can no longer afford to ignore autocratic regimes’ conduct that includes personal self-enrichment and the ongoing funding of conflict that results in mass human rights violations.
What is The Sentry’s role in addressing this kleptocratic conduct? The Sentry focuses on going after the dirty money of those who profit from human rights abuses and mass atrocities. Through detailed and extensive financial investigations, The Sentry has demonstrated that autocratic leaders and their global network of enablers continue to exploit international financial routes to move their ill-gotten gains overseas from their jurisdictions.
In its evidence before the Foreign Affairs Committee, The Sentry submits that a key pillar of the UK’s foreign policy must therefore be a focus on autocratic states’ corrupt transnational networks and the financial fallout from the actions of autocratic state leaders. The Sentry’s submission focuses on two questions in particular. First, how should the UK respond to autocratic states leveraging energy and natural resources as a tool of geopolitical influence? Second, what can the UK do to restrict illicit money flows to and from autocratic states?
The Sentry and its partner, the Enough Project’s work on countries in East and Central Africa has highlighted the exploitation of the region’s immense deposits of natural resources, including gold, oil, and other precious metals and minerals, by ruling elites and their networks. While UK policy interests prioritise the promotion of new and innovative economic partnerships with leaders across Africa, these should not be done at the expense of the peace, stability, or security of the countries which they lead.
As to the illicit flow of money, the position of UK, and London in particular, as one of the main global financial centres, exposes the country to attempts by autocratic leaders to move their dirty money into the British financial system. While the UK seeks to position itself as “open for business” in a particularly uncertain future following its exit from the European Union, The Sentry urged that it must do so with eyes wide open on the means and methods of autocratic leaders to both fund ongoing conflict and personally gain from conflict.
With this submission, and other UK-based efforts, The Sentry will play a leading role in supporting the UK government’s ability to disrupt the illicit financial flows from autocratic regimes by leveraging financial and legal tools of pressure. The Sentry is determined to ensure autocratic regimes can no longer use the UK as a safe haven for their ill-gotten gains.