Britain froze assets, imposed sanctions and enacted travel bans on nearly two dozen people accused of bribery, kickbacks and fraud on Monday, marking the first time the nation employed its own sanctioning powers to combat international corruption.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told lawmakers that the sanctions would prevent the United Kingdom from being used as "a haven for dirty money," according to The Associated Press.
"Corruption has a corrosive effect as it slows development, drains the wealth of poorer nations and keeps their people trapped in poverty. It poisons the well of democracy," Raab said, according to Reuters.
The list includes 14 Russians implicated in a $230 million tax fraud case, as well as Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, members of the Gupta business family at the center of a South African corruption scandal. The Guptas deny wrongdoing.
Sanctions were also imposed on businessman Ashraf Seed Ahmed Al-Cardinal, who is accused of stealing state assets in impoverished South Sudan, as well as individuals from Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he welcomed the sanctions, adding that they strengthened efforts to counter corruption globally.
Britain previously imposed sanctions as part of the European Union or United Nations. It has created its own sanctions laws since leaving the EU at the end of 2020. Those laws give the British government the power to penalize those credibly involved in serious violation of human rights and corruption.
Sanctioned individuals may not enter Britain, channel money through British banks or profit from the British economy.
The so-called Magnitsky sanctions, which the U.S. and several other countries have enacted, are named for Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who was arrested and later died in prison in Russia after accusing Russian officials of a massive tax fraud. Those officials were among those sanctioned Monday.
Opposition politicians said Monday's sanctions are welcomed but aren't enough because they don't target corruption in British overseas territories and dependencies.
Labour Party foreign affairs spokeswoman Lisa Nandy said Britain remains a haven for "dark money" and urged Raab to increase the powers for financial crime investigators.
"The current rate of prosecutions for economic crime is … woefully low, as he knows, and to put it bluntly if he's serious about what he's saying today he needs to put his money where his mouth is," Nandy said, according to the Associated Press.