As the British government threatens to crack down on Russian oligarchs laundering their wealth in the UK, bestselling investigative journalist Oliver Bullough came to Intelligence Squared to talk about the themes of his new book Butler to the World. Few countries, he argued, do more to enable kleptocrats, money launderers and fraudsters to go about their illicit business. Britain, he explained, has become a kind of global Jeeves, pocketing its cut as it helps characters far less savoury than Bertie Wooster stash away their billions or launder their reputation, and hiding the truth of what it’s doing behind quaint traditions, smart tailoring and references to the Second World War.
Bullough revealed the shocking scale of the problem – the hundreds of billions of pounds that are laundered through British banks and sequestered offshore every year, money that should be paying salaries or building infrastructure for the people who really need it. And he flagged up how much of the British elite is employed serving the interests of the rich and powerful, no matter how corrupt they are or what interests they are pursuing.
Bullough argued that it doesn’t have to be this way. Could the crisis in Ukraine be the moment when the UK decides to clean up its act?
‘This is an absolute must-read for everyone who wants to understand Britain’s crucial role in the global dirty money crisis … With the brilliant concept of Britain as the butler, Bullough lifts the lid and explains in a very clear and intelligible way why and how Britain is facilitating illicit finance across the world.’ – Margaret Hodge, MP and former chair of the Public Accounts Committee
‘Riveting from cover to cover; a jaw-dropping and damning account that will make you sit up and re-evaluate what you think about the City, the UK and global finance.’ – Peter Frankopan, author, The Silk Roads
‘A horribly brilliant account of just how much historical integrity Britain has sacrificed at the altar of dirty money. Bullough is a compelling and expert guide to the newly-dug sewers flowing through the heart of our political, legal and financial establishment. ‘ – James O’Brien, author, How Not to be Wrong