A Downing Street spokesman described a report, which claimed London and British-governed offshore centres were hubs for money laundering by terrorists, as ‘inaccurate’ before the events of 11 September and ‘even more inaccurate now’.
The 70-page report by the financial crime committee of the French National Assembly claims up to 40 British banks, companies and individuals are suspected of links with bin Laden.
Hundreds of banks in Oxford, Sudan, Geneva, Riyadh and the Bahamas are also said to have links with the head of the al Qaida network. Of the 575 banks registered in London the report said only 170 had submitted reports Of suspicious transactions to police.
The year-long investigation into claims that the City is a haven for money launderers says there is too much secrecy in British financial institutionswhich ‘largely ignore their duty to prevent money laundering’.
It calls on Britain to ‘dismantle the legal and banking havens of the Crown dependencies and the overseas territories for which it has particular responsibility’.
‘Those who deposit funds of criminal origin in accounts opened in London banks can rest assured that their money will quietly lie undisturbed without causing any suspicion on the part of the bankers,’ the report says.
And it added that it was ‘high time Europe got worried about sheltering in its midst these veritable machines that launder criminal money’, alleging many ofthe offshore havens had the ‘tacit if not explicit backing of the UK’.
But a Downing Street spokesman rejected the report claiming it ignored what the UK have done already to ensure transparency as well as the series of measures taken in consultation with ‘partners across the world’ to tighten up since 11September.
Adding its own weight, the Treasury insisted the UK has ‘one of the most comprehensive systems of laws to combat money laundering and financial terrorism in the world’ which have been strengthened following the terrorist attacks.
Judith Mayhew, chairwoman of the Corporation of London’s policy and resources committee, said British legislation was ‘amongst the most comprehensive in the world’ and rejected the report.
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