The United Kingdom enjoys the dubious honor of being a destination of choice for laundering the proceeds of grand corruption.*, * Kleptocratic leaders across the world, including from Sudan, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), target the UK to spend their ill-gotten gains on property, education for their children, and luxury goods. They enjoy the largesse of the UK while presiding over some of the world’s most serious human rights violations, their states often on the verge of collapse and characterized by violence and weak institutions.
These illicit financial flows from violent kleptocracies can be disruptive to the UK’s business and investment interests overseas, and they have the potential to damage the UK’s position as a leading international financial center. The flow of international illicit finance into the UK also undermines the country’s stated aim of supporting and promoting rules-based international systems,* and the British government has identified corruption as a cause of conflict and instability.* It has made clear the vital importance of preserving the UK as one of the world’s leading international financial centers with a strong and open economy.* This is especially important given the UK’s position as one of the leading foreign investors in Africa,* and the British government intends to grow investment in Africa further,* with the goal of becoming the largest G7 investor in the region by 2022.*
To disrupt the international illicit financial flows that underpin this reality and make it difficult for kleptocratic leaders to use the UK as a safe harbor,* the British government, finance sector, law enforcement, and other related industries should use existing tools to impose immediate measures on corrupt leaders and their networks of enablers. In concert with the European Union, the United States, and others, the UK should adopt innovative and hard-hitting new policies and legislation to target violent kleptocratic leaders where it hurts the most—their pockets. 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.