British Dirty Money Crackdown Worries Russian Oligarchs

Britain is cracking down on dubious money, and some ex-Soviet oligarchs are starting to worry.
Britain is cracking down on dubious money, and some ex-Soviet oligarchs are starting to worry.
PER_Oligarchs_01 Source: Photo Illustration by Gluekit

On a recent night in Venice, hundreds piled into the magnificent Palazzo Pisani Moretta for a masked ball, at 3,500 euros ($4,300) a head. Guests wore lavish outfits and drank champagne as acrobats and musicians pranced about. But in one corner, a couple of middle-aged Russian men—one dressed as a Venetian doge, the other as an 18th-century dandy—sounded glum.

“It’s a witch hunt,” said the doge.

“More anti-Russian hysteria,” agreed the dandy. “It’s just like back home. Suddenly, I don’t feel safe anymore.”

The reason for their concerns? Sweeping new powers that U.K. lawmakers introduced earlier this year to crack down on the estimated £90 billion ($126 billion) currently being laundered through companies and luxury real estate in central London. Known as unexplained wealth orders, the new investigative powers allow British law enforcement to demand that any person holding property or assets worth more than £50,000 ($70,000) in the U.K. explain the origin of their wealth. The new powers—coupled with an aggressive mood

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