Russia’s Prosecutor General’s office on Monday accused London of harboring dozens of wealthy criminals. Over a period of 15 years, Moscow asked Britain to extradite 83 people for prosecution in Russia, Saak Karapetyan, a senior prosecutor responsible for Russia’s legal cooperation with law enforcement in other nations, told journalists. Of those requests, 72 targeted people accused of financial crimes that have proven damages totaling around 500 billion rubles ($8.4 billion at the current exchange rate).
The actual damage caused by those individuals is likely to be much higher, the official said. The stated sum is what the Russian prosecution has evidence to confirm. “It’s just the tip of the iceberg,”Karapetyan said.
London has so far denied requests for 60 people from the extradition list, the prosecutor said. Of those, 55 were shielded by the British government by giving them refugee status or political asylum. When denying extradition, London claimed those individuals’ rights may be violated in Russia. Karapetyan said that apparently there was a well-established mechanism in London that allowed rich Russian criminals to park their capital in London by claiming to be victims of political persecution.
“It turned out, one only had to declare himself or herself an enemy of the ‘Putin regime’ to be granted refugee status,” the prosecutor revealed.
Britain’s incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May is responsible for most of the rejections, as a result of her service as Home Secretary between 2010 and 2016, Karapetyan added.
London recently announced that it will investigate all Russian assets parked in London worth over £50,000 ($70,565), demanding that the owners explain how they came to possess them. Russia believes that the British authorities may be preparing to confiscate the stolen money, which has proper owners in Russia. “This is aimed to benefit only Britain,”Karapetyan said.
The situation was referred to by the office to illustrate the poor state of legal cooperation between Russia and Britain. It disclosed some documents, which Russian prosecutors believe prove London’s foul play in some high-profile cases. In particular, fugitive tycoon Boris Berezovsky, they said, received political asylum in Britain under a false pretext. Prosecutors say he had a motive to kill Aleksandr Litvinenko, who was his confidant and witness to the asylum fraud. Berezovsky’s death, which happened after he announced his intention to return to Russia, is also deemed highly suspicious.
“As soon as Mr Berezovsky decided, according to media reports and his own statements, to return to Russia, [he was found dead]. Who benefited from Berezovsky’s not going to Russia, not disclosing the secrets he knew is obvious, I believe – the British authorities,” Karapetyan stated.