Press Release / / 12.09.20

UK Faces Billions in Dirty Money, New Report Warns

New Report Exposes UK’s Dirty Money Crisis:

Billions in Illicit Assets Flow Into British Banks, Businesses, and Properties, as War Profiteers and Corrupt Networks Seek Luxury and Security


December 9, 2020 (London / Washington, D.C.) – A new report published today by The Sentry, the investigative and policy team co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, details how the United Kingdom has become a magnet for dirty money emanating from some of the world’s deadliest conflict zones. The Sentry’s report, “Safe Harbor No More: The UK and International Kleptocracy,” by The Sentry’s Senior Advisor Oliver Windridge, puts a spotlight on the lure of the UK’s banking, business, and luxuries for those who have profited from suffering elsewhere in the world, and it offers a range of actionable policy recommendations.

Oliver Windridge, Senior Advisor at The Sentry and author of the report, said: “Whether it’s a bespoke suit, a Mayfair apartment, or a prestigious private education, the UK acts as a magnet for corrupt leaders and their business partners seeking to enjoy their ill-gotten gains. To our collective shame, the UK provides a veneer of legitimacy that helps kleptocrats maintain an iron grip on their countries. Put simply, the UK can continue to promote itself as a leading financial centre, but it can no longer do so at the expense of victims of conflict and kleptocracy across the globe.”

With some of the world’s most respected financial institutions, a lucrative property market, and access to luxury goods and lifestyles, the report red flags the strong incentives for many of those corruptly or criminally profiting from the world’s deadliest conflicts to move their money to the UK. The report highlights how both the public and private sectors have signaled new commitments to address the problem, including the UK’s recently published Economic Crime Plan, and offers a range of recommendations to counter the flow of dirty money.

Denisse Rudich, Senior Advisor at The Sentry, said: “For many years, the UK has been a destination country for money launderers and corrupt foreign officials. However, the UK also has one of the most potent anti-money laundering, anti-bribery, and anti-corruption regimes in the world. Now embarking on its journey towards Global Britain, the UK has both the opportunity and obligation to actively counter the exploitation of its financial system.”

The UK has one of the largest, oldest, and most respected banking industries in the world. This elevated status brings with it the allure of providing a kleptocratic leader with a veneer of legitimacy, a stable location for investment, and open access to the international banking market, and The Sentry’s report spotlights banks as a first line of defense against the laundering of criminal proceeds. Major financial institutions, according to the report’s findings, hold significant amounts of information and data from which specialists charged with investigating illicit financial flows may unearth evidence of the complex transactions that trace back to kleptocratic leaders.

John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry, said: “The time has come for the UK to take action and ensure it is no longer a safe harbor for the billions in profit made from the suffering of millions of people. While making strides towards addressing its dirty money problem, the UK must do more. Policy tools have been created, but tools are of no use unless they are used effectively. A proactive approach that stems the flow of illicit finance will not only ensure that the UK can protect its own reputation, but it will also allow the UK to play a leading role in dismantling the financing of Africa’s deadliest conflicts.”

The UK has an array of legislation and regulation designed to catch kleptocratic leaders and their enablers. These policy tools are broadly divided into three areas: anti-money laundering measures, network sanctions, and law enforcement. The report details how these areas coexist and overlap, but all are key to stemming the flow of illicit finance into the UK and require bolder and more effective deployment.

Report recommendations for the UK government:

  • Continue to approach the issue of international illicit financial flows holistically, requiring input from both the private and public sectors. No one agency, government department, civil society organization, or private institution can effect real change alone.
  • Partner with financial institutions to effectively implement and strengthen anti-money laundering regulations, including by issuing further alerts, executing a root-and-branch review of the SARs regime, and strengthening legislation.
  • Embrace the opportunities afforded by the new Global Human Rights sanctions regime and commence with an autonomous sanctions program that uses targeted network sanctions against kleptocratic leaders and their enablers.
  • Complement the new Global Human Rights sanctions regime with the addition of corruption—either as part of the new regime or as a stand-alone regime running in parallel—as soon as possible.
  • UK law enforcement: Use all the tools available, whether criminal legislation or civil asset recovery powers, to investigate, identify, and seize or freeze assets in the UK and halt the flow of international illicit financial flows into the UK.

Read the “Safe Harbor No More” report:

Related news: Read The Sentry’s response to the EU Global Human Rights sanctions regime, which launched this week: Press Release

Additional resources: 

For media inquiries and interview requests, please contact: Greg Hittelman, Director of Communications, +1 310 717 0606,


The Sentry is an investigative and policy team that follows the dirty money connected to African war criminals and transnational war profiteers and seeks to shut those benefiting from violence out of the international financial system. By disrupting the cost-benefit calculations of those who hijack governments for self-enrichment, we seek to counter the main drivers of conflict and create new leverage for peace, human rights, and good governance. The Sentry is composed of financial investigators, international human rights lawyers, and regional experts, as well as former law enforcement agents, intelligence officers, policymakers, investigative journalists, and banking professionals. Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is a strategic partner of the Clooney Foundation for Justice.

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