What makes Britain the 'global hub' for Russian money laundering?

The UK has been described as a “global hub for money laundering” after new statistics revealed the scale of the links between dirty Russian money and British property and business.

In data shared exclusively with ITV’s Peston programme, Transparency International UK identified 2,189 companies registered in the UK or its offshore tax havens used in 48 Russian money laundering and corruption cases.

Overall, the cases involved more than £82 billion worth of funds that had been diverted by means including bribery and embezzlement.

The group also said that UK property worth £1.5 billion was bought by Russians with links to the Kremlin or accused of corruption, with more than £428 million - or 28% of the total value - based in the City of Westminster.

The top five areas also included Kensington, Chelsea, Camden, Wokingham and the City of London.

Although much of the value is based in London and the south east, Stoke-on-Trent was found to have properties worth more than £12 million, bought by individuals with links to Vladimir Putin’s administration or accused of corruption.

The group found that more than half of the property was held by companies registered in Britain’s overseas territories and crown dependencies, saying the financial centres were often used by those seeking to hide their ownership.

Transparency International UK said it was clear that the picture painted was of Britain as a “global hub” when it comes to Russian money linked to corruption.

Their focus on the links through finance come after Boris Johnson hit out at other countries in Europe for their reliance on Russia because of links to its gas supplies.

He said countries needed to “get Nord stream [a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany] out of the bloodstream”, adding: “Yank out that hypodermic drip feed of Russian hydrocarbons that is keeping so many European economies going.”

Data from the Economist does show how some countries are very reliant on Russian gas.

In fact, Austria, Lithuania and Finland get 100% of their gas from there, although in all three countries gas is a fairly small proportion of their overall energy mix - it's down to only three percent in Finland.

But in Germany – where gas makes up almost a third of the total energy used, almost 60% of it is supplied by Russia – while it is far lower – closer to 10% - in the UK.

The PM’s comments led to a response from the Polish MEP, Radek Sikorski, on Twitter.

He argued: “It would be better if Germany got tough on Russian energy dependence and Britain on stolen Russian money. Not the other way round.”