Fresh crackdown in the UK in fight against dirty money

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The British government is giving new impetus to the fight against money laundering. Through the Economic Crime Plan the British Government intends to draw together actions to overhaul the approach to tackling economic crime, with greater partnering between the government, law enforcement and the private sector. 

This includes:

  • government, law enforcement and business agree joint plan to work closer together to tackle fraud, money laundering, bribery and corruption

  • £6.5 million from major financial institutions to reform the Suspicious Activity Reporting regime
  • action on cryptoassets to ensure these are not being used for money laundering and other illicit activity

  • Asset Recovery Action Plan will help claw back the proceeds of crime, with £1.6 billion taken from criminals between 2010 and 2018

The publication of the new Economic Crime Plan, agreed between the Chancellor Philip Hammond, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, and heads of law enforcement, major financial institutions and legal, accountancy and property organisations will see that criminals will have nowhere left to hide their ill-gotten 

The plan sets out actions to better tackle the scourge of ‘dirty money’ in the UK. It brings together the public and private sectors in closer cooperation than ever before, with improved levels of information sharing, resource pooling and technological innovation. This will help tackle economic crime both at home and overseas, while maintaining the UK’s place as one of the safest and most transparent places to do business.

The plan draws together actions to overhaul the approach to tackling economic crime, including:

  • a boost to law enforcement capability, with £48 million of previously announced funding to continue to build the National Economic Crime Centre and help the National Crime Agency to better utilise data to proactively target fraudsters and those laundering dirty money

  • reform of the Suspicious Activity Reporting regime, with Barclays, HSBC UK, Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide, RBS and Santander UK investing £6.5 million in 2019/20, in addition to the £3.5 million committed by the Home Office this year.
  • All parties will work together on longer term funding for developing richer intelligence and improving operational effectiveness in the fight against dirty money.

  • establishing a new cryptoassets regime with the Financial Conduct Authority, going beyond international standards to create one of the most comprehensive global responses to the use of cryptoassets in illicit activity

  • promoting innovation in the private sector and encouraging businesses to take advantage of pioneering technologies to combat economic crime, as well as reduce their compliance costs

  • Implementing the new Asset Recovery Action Plan, setting out a range of measures designed to enhance efforts to claw back the proceeds of crime, including those held abroad.

The UK has been recognised as a world-leader in combatting economic crime, yet the activity still poses a significant threat to the country’s security and prosperity, with the financial sector a major target for criminals. Serious and organised crime is estimated to cost the UK at least £37 billion each year.

While numerous government agencies work to combat illicit financial activity, major financial institutions, lawyers and accountants are often the first line of defence, collecting significant information which can be vital to preventing this activity from occurring in the first place.

One in fifteen members of the public are now believed to be falling victim to fraud, with gang violence and drug trafficking regularly financed through this.

Alongside the Economic Crime Plan, the Government is publishing a new Asset Recovery Action Plan.

It highlights how more assets have been recovered under this government than ever before, with £1.6 billion taken from criminals between April 2010 and March 2018 using the powers in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA). Many hundreds of millions more have been frozen.

The recovery of assets also helps contribute to ongoing efforts to tackle crime, including work to follow the money as an effective way of disrupting serious crime and depriving more offenders of the proceeds of their offending.

But the government is determined to go further and ensure criminals have nowhere to hide their illicit finances. The plan sets out measures designed to ensure the relevant agencies have the powers they need; strengthen our operational response; drive best practice; and foster innovation and collaborative working.

These plans build on other ongoing work to combat economic crime. This includes encouraging transparency around the ownership of assets, with recent proposals to reform Companies House so that ownership and control of companies is clearer.

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