Some years ago, an American academic asked Oliver Bullough what Britain was doing to combat Chinese money laundering. The short answer was: nothing. Finding this hard to believe, the academic pressed on. Which agencies were investigating the threat? What cases had come to court? And who knew exactly how big the problem was?
Sensing his companion’s bafflement at Britain’s apparent indifference to illicit finance, Bullough spelt out the situation as clearly as possible: “If someone’s rich, and they need something done, something hidden or something bought, that’s what we do. We have developed a new business model, as butler to the world.”
The butler Bullough had in mind was Jeeves, the ever-resourceful valet created by P.G. Wodehouse. Except there is a difference – as he points out in his new bestseller Butler to the World. While Jeeves was tidying up after the chronically gormless, yet essentially harmless, Bertie Wooster, the UK has provided its lucrative butlering services to the world’s oligarchs, kleptocrats and gangsters.