The Russian mafia taking over land in Islington? “I certainly hope not”

Emily Thornberry

Emily Thornberry - Credit: Archant

The Russian mafia could end up controlling publicly owned land under proposed laws, Islington South and Finsbury’s MP has warned.

Emily Thornberry said proposals in the Transport for London (TfL) Bill, which would allow the body to form limited partnerships, could lead to public land being taken over by “cloudy organisations”.

The bill has been rejected by MPs since it first appeared in 2010. It would allow TfL more flexibility over business operations and financial affairs. Supporters argue it would enable, for example, thousands of new homes to be built.

But Mrs Thornberry said last week: “The difficulty is that we are raising money on public land, land that’s owned by you and me. It’s owned by all of us and we are to be handing over some sort of liability or some sort of investment in this land by organisations that cloudy to say the least.

“Is there anything to stop, for example, these partners being offshore companies?

“Is there anything to stop them, when they are established with some people on the face of the document, being responsible for the company and then at a later stage the Russian mafia taking over instead?

“Are we handing over Caledonian Road, Old Street, some of the potential developments within my constituency to such people?

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“I certainly hope not.”

But rail minister Claire Perry rejected Labour complaints about the bill.

She said: “The Bill will enable TfL to expand their financial freedoms, to use practices and mechanisms which allow them to increase greater value from their financing arrangements.

“It is not some back door attempt to allow Russian mafia in to finance Londoners through special purpose vehicles.”