If I were to describe secretive organisations that make millions from mafia states, you would imagine – what? Mercenaries? Conspiracies with Blofeld at their head? Nothing so thrilling, I’m afraid. Picture instead respectable lawyers of high status and higher income, whose love of money is now, in the words of the Commons foreign affairs committee, a matter of “national security”. Others should judge whether they were so “entwined in the corruption of the Kremlin and its supporters that they are no longer able to meet the standards expected of a UK regulated law firm”.
The lawyers who worried MPs worked at the “magic circle” London firm Linklaters, whose 40 highest-paid partners received £1.57m on average last year. Linklaters decided that the attempted murder of the Skripals, Russia’s shooting down of the MH17, its complicity in crimes against humanity in Syria, the annexation of Crimea, the invasion of Ukraine, support for the far right, the interference in democratic elections in the west and the suppression of democracy at home in no way obliged it to answer questions about its dealings with Moscow. It had nothing to say about its role in floating a Russian company last year.
The argument seems to be that bad guys shouldn’t be allowed to have lawyers.
I’m really pretty sure that’s not the way we want the system to work actually.