Britain is targeting Nigerians with dubious wealth living or investing in that country as it seeks to expand its use of the Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs).
Also being closely watched by the British government are investors from Russia, China and the Middle East, according to the Director of Prosperity at Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA), Donald Toon.
The UWOs empower the British government to seize the assets of corrupt “politically exposed persons” or those with links to serious crime.
“We have significantly scaled up the work that we are doing,” Toon said in London.
“We are absolutely looking at Russians … but we are not exclusively looking at Russians and Russian assets.”
Transparency campaigners in Britain often question the source of some of the wealth that keeps pouring into the country from abroad. Such foreigners, including Nigeria, buy everything from luxury properties to entire companies.
Toon said Britain has become a very attractive destination for corrupt foreign money, particularly from Russia, Nigeria, Pakistan, former Soviet states and the Far East.
His agency estimates that about £100 billion of dirty money is moved through or into Britain annually.
Assets worth about £25 million have already been frozen under the UWOs, although Toon admitted that the process is difficult and time-consuming as each case has to be taken through the courts.
Toon added: “some people in that space absolutely have directly and immediately something to fear because they are subjects of cases we are working on.
“The fact you are not seeing big numbers at the moment does not mean we are not doing the work, because we are.
You will see that come through in the courts; it will take time but you will see it. It takes time because the people who hold these assets are not stupid.”