Jeremy Hunt claims fight against ‘dirty’ Russian money is working

NIcholas Cecil
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt insisted the crackdown on unexplained Russian wealth orders was seeing results: AFP/Getty Images

A crackdown on “dirty” Russian money in London is starting to have an impact, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt insisted today.

Only three unexplained wealth orders have reportedly been used in the six months since they were introduced, all against the wife of an allegedly corrupt banker.

Mr Hunt stressed: “This is a police matter, the way that we use these unexplained wealth orders. Investigations take time,” when speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “But they are starting to have an impact.”

Unexplained wealth orders let the authorities freeze assets and require suspects in Britain to explain their wealth. The Government ordered a clampdown after the Novichok poisoning in Salisbury in March, which targeted former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal a nd his daughter Yulia.

Mr Hunt also said: “The police and our intelligence services have had no greater priority than being able to attribute as effectively as we can responsibility for the [nerve agent] attacks,” adding that they are “making progress”. The attack killed Dawn Sturgess , 44, after she was infected from a discarded bottle. US reports say the suspected perpetrators are believed to be members of Russia’s GRU military intelligence service.

Calling for the EU to match fresh US sanctions against Russia, the Foreign Secretary said: “We have to make it clear to countries considering using nerve agents that the price will be too high and we can only do that if we stand together with our allies in Europe and the US.”

However, shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said: “Imposing new sanctions would further ratchet up international tensions.” In a speech at the US Institute of Peace in Washington, Mr Hunt is due to say that under Vladimir Putin, Russia’s “aggressive and malign behaviour undermines the international order that keeps us safe”.

During his three-day visit to the US, he will say: “The UK asks its allies to go further by calling on the EU to ensure its sanctions against Russia are comprehensive, and that we truly stand shoulder to shoulder with the US.”

But some EU nations are reaching out to President Putin’s regime, with French president Emmanuel Macron having travelled to Russia to call on the country to work “hand-in-hand” with Europe. German chancellor Angela Merkel held talks with President Putin on Saturday.

In the US, the Foreign Secretary will also hold talks with secretary of state Mike Pompeo and chief of staff John Kelly, Downing Street said.