The following article was written by Martin Bentham and published in The Standard.
The Prime Minister’s anti-corruption supremo today promised a purge on “McMafia”-style criminals in London.
John Penrose, an MP and former minister, admitted there had been too much complacency about money laundering and other white-collar crime.
He said too many people had been willing to “look the other way” or been “seduced” by the “glamour and wealth” of “elites sipping champagne” and the money corruption brought in. These included crooked accountants, solicitors and estate agents.
However, he said BBC1’s hit drama McMafia, which is based on a non-fiction account of corrupt foreign tycoons in London by journalist Misha Glenny, had highlighted “the true human cost”.
Mr Penrose said: “If McMafia serves to educate and inform us about the links between money laundering, modern slavery, drug trafficking, and organised crime, in this city and around the world, then it won’t just have entertained. It will have changed attitudes too.
“McMafia, rightly, doesn’t flinch in cataloguing the reality. Corruption isn’t just morally objectionable. It undermines the legitimacy of our society. Of our economy. Or our entire way of life. If people believe the system is corrupt then it’s a short step to, ‘If you can’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em’.”
Mr Penrose who was appointed as Theresa May’s new “anti-corruption champion” last month, was speaking days before new “unexplained wealth orders” come into effect. these will give prosecutors the right to force wealthy foreigners and Britons whose sources of income appear dubious to prove where they obtained their money. Those who are unable to show a legitimate source could have assets seized.
Mr Penrose said the reform was one of the many that the Government was introducing to tackle corruption. Crooked professionals, including those involved in public contracts or who turned a blind eye to other illegal activity, would be among the targets.
Mr Penrose said: “Let’s catch and jail criminals who always thought they were safe. Kleptocrats. Money launderers. Drug, guns and people-smugglers too. [Put] previously untouchable criminals behind bars. If future generations watch quaint reruns and repeats of McMafia and treat it as a work of pure fiction, then we would have changed the world for the better.”
Campaigners have welcomed the anti-corruption efforts but fear that some, including over the disclosure of the true ownership of foreign companies used to hold properties, have yet to go far enough. There are also concerns that unexplained wealth orders might not be used effectively enough because of the legal challenges involved.