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Russian Oligarchs in Britain Will Be Asked to Explain Wealth

FILE - Ben Wallace, who then was parliamentary undersecretary of state for the Northern Ireland Office, is pictured as he arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, May 12, 2015.

Russian oligarchs suspected of corruption will be forced to explain their wealth in Britain, The Times newspaper reported Saturday, quoting the security minister.

Officials are preparing to use new orders, which came into effect this week, enabling them to seize suspicious assets until those under investigation can properly account for their acquisitions, Security Minister Ben Wallace told The Times.

Wallace said the government would use powers to freeze and recover property if individuals could not explain how they acquired assets worth more than $70,000.

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

Officials estimate that around $127 billion (102 billion euros) of illegal funds are laundered through Britain every year.

Last year, British media reported on a "Laundromat" inquiry into an alleged Russian-led money-laundering scheme, in which $22.3 billion passed through Moldova using Russian shell companies and fictitious loans from offshore companies based in Britain in 2011-14.

Wallace said the British government was determined to stop such behavior.

"What we know from the Laundromat expose is that certainly there have been links to the state," he said.

“The government's view is that we know what they are up to and we are not going to let it happen anymore,” he added.

Based on reporting by The Times, Reuters and AFP.