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UK’s reputation as ‘haven for wealthy’ may begin fading away - Russian business ombudsman

February 04, 12:13 UTC+3 LONDON

London has been developing so quickly and dynamically mostly because very many rich people from Russia, China and Arabic countries have come here, Titov said

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© Anatoliy Strunin/TASS

LONDON, February 4. /TASS/. The United Kingdom may begin losing the status of a "haven for the wealthy," if it starts implementing the policy of verifying wealth origins, Russia’s business ombudsman Boris Titov, visiting the UK, told reporters on Saturday.

TASS asked the official to comment on the UK’s Unexplained Wealth Orders tool in fighting owners of ill-gotten British assets. "This new form of treating the country’s residents is a bad signal," Titov said. "It shows that the UK’s political authorities begin different policies, starting a fight against the wealthy, thus the country would be losing this status of haven for the rich."

"For many decades, the UK lived by granting tax and civil shelters for many rich people; London has been developing so quickly and dynamically mostly because very many rich people from Russia, China and Arabic countries have come here," he said.

"The UK has not requested declarations of incomes, received outside the country. The rich could bring in any amounts of money, if they were not citizens or tax residents. However, taxes were payable only from the money they earned inside the UK." Now that the British authorities begin verifying the assets’ sources, he continued, "this means they begin changing radically the country's legislation."

According to the ombudsman, many Russians settled in London back in the 1990s and began from buying property there. He mentioned his own story, as he used to live in London for eight years (between 1989 and 1997). "Here, I began the career in 1989; if now they come and ask me how I could buy my small property in London’s suburb, what can I reply? No, I cannot remember much now, so how could I account for that with documents," he said.

Orders to account for wealth

In The Times on Saturday, the UK’s Security Minister Ben Wallace said London would force the rich to account for origins of their money. He promised, if a property owner fails to give relevant explanations, the property could be arrested.

Those rich would be the target of new Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO,) which came into force on January 31. This tool is under a new law on criminal finances, which allows the authorities to request money origins from owners of property or assets of more than 50,000 pounds ($71,000), or accounts.

According to The Times, the UK authorities have dozens names to force to give explanations, and the procedure is about to begin against two of them. The daily does not quote any names.

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