The UK has sanctioned 22 individuals involved in notorious corruption cases under a new global anti-corruption regime, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.
Individuals across Russia, South Africa and Latin America were targeted with asset freezes and travel bans on Monday in the first wave of sanctions under the measure.
Fourteen of those hit with sanctions were involved in one of the largest tax frauds in recent Russian history as exposed by the late lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Taken partly in tandem with measures in the US, Mr Raab said the sanctions target those involved “in some of the most notorious corruption cases around the world”.
Mr Raab acknowledged to MPs that the UK, as a global finance hub, can be a “honey pot” for corrupt individuals seeking to “launder their dirty money”.
But he said the sanctions regime will be “an additional powerful tool to hold the corrupt to account”.
“It will prevent corrupt actors from using the UK as a haven for dirty money, while combatting corruption around the world,” he told the Commons.
Labour welcomed the announcement, but said law enforcement need the resources to support investigations, saying the current rate of prosecutions for economic crime is “woefully low”.
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: “If he’s serious about what he’s saying today he needs to put his money where his mouth is.”
She also criticised a “tangled network of financial interests and cosy relationships in the heart of Government”, citing messages exchanged between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Three individuals accused of long-running corruption in South Africa were among those hit with sanctions, as were four Dubai-based businesspeople.
A Honduran congressman accused of facilitating bribes to support a major drug trafficking organisation was also targeted.
So too were a Guatemalan linked to bribery and a treasurer of Nicaragua’s Sandinista party linked to misappropriation of public funds.
Transparency International UK policy director Duncan Hames said: “Whilst this regime is by no means a silver bullet for tackling the UK’s role as a safe haven for the corrupt, it is a very positive development.
“The use of these powers should send a firm message to corrupt individuals and their enablers who have enjoyed the freedom to travel to and invest in the UK, that they will no longer be welcome here.”