Political donations escape ‘money laundering’ checks required to open bank account or donate to charity, MPs say

Opening a bank account or donating to charity requires tighter controls than donating to a political party, a “black money” investigation found.

Charities must prove that the money they receive has not been laundered – yet parties receiving billions of pounds escape such protections, a Commons committee has said.

Dr Alistair Clark, of Newcastle University, pointed out that the Security Committee’s report on Russia – which Boris Johnson suppressed in 2019 – had “indicated that the Russians can do it”.

And ministers were now introducing tough identity laws to vote in elections, while failing to act on “lax” controls on huge sums paid to parties.

“It seems to me to be a pretty big anomaly in the ability to give money to the political system,” he told the public administration committee.

“There is absolutely no reason that political parties should not be able to adopt these customer demands, because we all had to deal with it when we opened a bank account, when we did something about it. line. “

“And I see no reason why all parties should not have to apply these money laundering regulations equally.”

Dr Clark added: “People are going to be asked to identify themselves to vote – yet no one is really asking for identity for those who give money to political parties.

The inquiry comes as the Conservatives threaten to overhaul – or abolish – the Election Commission which Amanda Milling, the Conservative chairperson, has called “unsuitable for its purpose.”

The government has been accused of a revenge mission, after the watchdog punished Vote Leave for breaking electoral law during the Brexit referendum campaign.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has been accused of giving the Kremlin the green light to meddle in British politics, after rejecting many of the report’s findings on Russia – after eventually releasing it.

But Dr Clark said the powers of the Commission needed to be strengthened because – with fines capped at just £ 20,000 – activists “don’t see this as a serious deterrent”.

“They can exploit loopholes in the law,” he warned, adding, “They will be fined at the end, if they are discovered.”

Dr Clark added: “The ISC [intelligence and security committee] Russia’s report indicated that Russia is capable of doing this.

“So the licensing regime that we have is way past its expiration date. We really need to think about tightening up here. ”

Professor Toby James of the University of East Anglia has raised fears of the May election – postponed from last year – with decisions left to local authorities, amid pandemic restrictions.

In Scotland, the Parliament of Holyrood had powers over day-to-day preparations, while in England and Wales “there is no central authority capable of doing this”.

“Are all the polling stations reserved? Are they all in place? He asked, adding, “We’ll see what happens in May.”