Belarus: end flow of corrupt money via UK, says Estonia president

Kersti Kaljulaid calls on Britain to stand firm with EU and oppose anti-democratic governments

Last modified on Tue 25 May 2021 13.05 EDT

Estonia’s president, Kersti Kaljulaid, has urged the UK to take action to stop anti-democratic regimes such as Belarus siphoning corrupt money through London’s financial centre.

Her plea comes after the EU announced new economic sanctions against Belarus, and punitive measures against its national airline, in response to the hijacking of a Ryanair flight that led to the controversial arrest of the dissident blogger Raman Pratasevich earlier this week.

The president said the sanctions were targeting the “arteries of money” that allowed the Belarusian regime to operate.

She called on the UK government to stand united with the EU and do all it can to oppose anti-democratic governments, such as that being run by the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko.

“We were not very shy here in Estonia, also after the Salisbury attack, to point out that there is a lot of [this] money in your own country,” the Estonian president told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme.

Kaljulaid said she raised the issue of corrupt money from authoritarian regimes entering the UK’s financial system with British officials after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in 2018, which was blamed on agents from Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU.

“We understand there are legal limitations but [be] the strongest you can be, considering that this money is siphoned off from the suffering of the Belarusian people from the regime trampling on their democratic rights.

“I’m quite sure that the UK sees the value of being strong and united here with Europe, as we were in the case of Salisbury.”

The UK authorities said at the time that action would “definitely” be taken, but Kaljulaid said it was not clear whether any changes had been made.

The Queen’s speech earlier this month, which sets out plans for new laws, also lacked any detail about cracking down on corrupt money in the City, or creating a register of who owns UK property through offshore shell companies. That was despite a promise to force property owners to reveal their identities back in 2019.

The UK’s Foreign Office and Treasury were contacted for comment.

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