Russian oligarchs living in UK 'will be forced to account for their wealth,' minister says

Russian oligarchs suspected of corruption and living in the UK must account for their wealth as part of a fresh crackdown on organised crime, a Government minister has said.

Security minister Ben Wallace said the "full force of government" would be brought to bear on foreign criminals and corrupt politicians who use Britain as a haven.

Officials will use new unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) - which came into effect this week - to seize and hold suspicious assets until they have been accounted for.

Wallace told The Times: "When we get to you, we will come for you, for your assets and we will make the environment that you live in difficult."

Journalist Misha Glenny has been at the forefront of exposing corruption of Russian gangsters in London. Credit: PA

The move comes as London's role as a playground for Russian gangsters and the super rich has been highlighted by the BBC drama series McMafia.

Wallace said ministers wanted to exploit the success of the programme - based on the factual book of the same name by the journalist Misha Glenny - to raise public awareness of the issue of corruption.

"McMafia is one of those things where you realise that fact is ahead of fiction," he told the paper.

"It's a really good portrayal of sharp-suited wealthy individuals, but follow the money and it ends up with a young girl getting trafficked for sex.

"Beneath the gloss there is real nastiness. So far it's very close to the truth, the international nature of organised crime and the impunity with which some of these people operate and the brutality of it, is absolutely correct."

Officials estimate that around £90 billion of illegal funds is laundered through the UK every year.

The establishment of UWOs, as part of the Criminal Finance Act, will enable the authorities to freeze and recover property if individuals are unable to explain how they acquired assets in excess of £50,000.