A London-based businessman with Israel ties may have funneled Russian money to the country’s ruling Conservative Party, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
According to an alert sent to Britain’s National Crime Agency by Barclay’s Bank earlier this year, British-Israeli businessman Ehud Sheleg gave $630,225 to the party in February 2018.
According to the alert, Sheleg – a top Conservative donor and the party’s treasurer until September 2021 – had received $2.5 million from his father-in-law Sergei Kopytov, a former Ukrainian politician who served under deposed Pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, a month before the donation.
This money, the Times reported, was transferred between various accounts belonging to Sheleg before winding up in the Conservative Party’s coffers.
“We are able to trace a clear line back from this donation to its ultimate source,” Barclay’s stated in the alert.
“There is absolutely no basis for suggesting that Mr. Kopytov’s gift to his daughter was intended as, or for the purpose of making, a political donation to the Conservative Party,” Sheleg’s attorney told the Times.
On Tuesday, Prince Charles announced that Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government will soon introduce a new economic crime bill to crack down on illicit finance, looking to strengthen laws that have empowered its Russian sanction regime and empower authorities to seize cryptocurrency assets.
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The government said that the bill would be aimed at driving kleptotocrats and dirty money out of Britain, ensuring that people such as associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin do not benefit from Britain's economy.
Britain in March passed an Economic Crime Act, and subsequently sanctioned hundreds of Russian individuals and entities, catching up with similar measures imposed by the European Union and United States.