Originally published in The Sunday Times.
Police estimate billions are being laundered in London property, fuelling price rises. Now a ‘Kleptocracy Tour’ aims to highlight the oligarchs and offshore firms buying up the capital. Ben Judah hops aboard.
This is the London you never see: Knightsbridge mansions of Vladimir Putin’s oligarchs, Baker Street apartments of Kazakh secret police chiefs and Highgate palaces of Russian politicians. Unless, of course, you go on London’s brand new Kleptocracy Tour, which is run by anti-corruption campaigners featuring the Russian opposition in a spoof Beverly Hills homes tour of oligarch London.
The set-off point was kept secret until the last moment but the inaugural Kleptocracy Tour was packed with journalists, activists and even corporate investigators — keen to see for themselves where the money ends up. But who was inviting them? A coalition of left, right, British, Russian and Ukrainian non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The umbrella group is ClampK, a new anti-corruption outfit of more than 15 NGOs, including Oxfam and Global Witness — in partnership with the Hudson Institute and the Henry Jackson Society, both think tanks.