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New U.K. Agency to Crack Down on Money Laundering

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Britain announced on Monday the cre­ation of a new National Economic Crime Center (NECC) to crack down on mon­ey laun­der­ing, which is esti­mat­ed to cost tax­pay­ing house­holds in the United Kingdom US$ 340 each year.

Criminals involved in drug deal­ing and human traf­fick­ing in Britain are expect­ed to make at least $120.3 bil­lion in 2017 alone. This ille­gal mon­ey, in order to be use­ful to crim­i­nals, is made “clean” through mon­ey laun­der­ing process­es, allow­ing them to avoid pros­e­cu­tion, asset seizures or tax audits.

This $120.3 bil­lion sta­tis­tic does not include mon­ey obtained through oth­er ille­gal means such as fraud, the most com­mon crim­i­nal offense in the UK, accord­ing to a Home Office press release.

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd empha­sized that although London is con­sid­ered a major glob­al finan­cial cen­ter and one of the safest places in the world to do busi­ness, bil­lions of pounds are laun­dered through the city each year.

According to a video released by Britain’s Home Office, the new Economic Crime Centre will “use intel­li­gence and ana­lyt­i­cal capa­bil­i­ties from gov­ern­ment, law enforce­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor to tack­le high lev­el fraud and mon­ey laun­der­ing.”

The NECC will be based in the National Crime Agency and will spear­head a cross-sec­toral effort to com­bat eco­nom­ic crime. “Together we will make the UK a hos­tile envi­ron­ment for seri­ous and orga­nized crim­i­nals involved in eco­nom­ic crime,” Nigel Kirby, Deputy Director for the NCA’s Economic Crime Command, announced.

This move is part of a larg­er British strat­e­gy to ramp up anti-cor­rup­tion efforts. On Monday the British gov­ern­ment released a new anti-cor­rup­tion strat­e­gy for the peri­od from 2017 to 2022 in order to tar­get “cor­rupt insid­ers” in sec­tors includ­ing polic­ing, pris­ons and bor­der force, The Guardian reports.

In a ges­ture like­ly moti­vat­ed by the uncer­tain­ties of the Brexit nego­ti­a­tions and Britain’s break with EU reg­u­la­tions, the Home Office made “strength­en­ing the integri­ty of the UK as an inter­na­tion­al finan­cial cen­tre” one of its six anti-cor­rup­tion pri­or­i­ties.

According to a Home Office press release the British gov­ern­ment has also renewed its com­mit­ment to intro­duce an “over­seas com­pa­nies ben­e­fi­cial own­er­ship reg­is­ter,” mean­ing that over­seas com­pa­nies own­ing or buy­ing prop­er­ty in the UK or vying for gov­ern­ment con­tracts will be required to pro­vide details of their ulti­mate own­ers.

This will ide­al­ly reduce the num­ber of oppor­tu­ni­ties for crim­i­nals to use shell com­pa­nies to hide their wealth, and help law enforce­ment track ille­gal mon­ey.

Additionally, new leg­is­la­tion in Britain will let the National Crime Agency direct­ly send the worst cas­es of eco­nom­ic crime to the Serious Fraud Office, an enforce­ment branch inde­pen­dent from the NCA. According to The Telegraph, this gives a sig­nif­i­cant boost to the future of the Serious Fraud Office, which British Prime Minister Theresa May tried to elim­i­nate as home sec­re­tary.

Although the NECC will tar­get high-pro­file cas­es of mon­ey laun­der­ing linked with orga­nized crime, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has also empha­sized the impor­tance of crack­ing down on low­er-lev­el eco­nom­ic crime that threat­ens aver­age British cit­i­zens.

There is a myth that there are no real vic­tims of eco­nom­ic crime, but I have seen first-hand how it can ruin people’s lives. It is not a vic­tim­less crime,” Rudd declared. “I don’t know a sin­gle per­son who doesn’t know some­body who knows some­body who has been the vic­tim of some sort of online fraud. On those two ele­ments, high-lev­el eco­nom­ic crime and every­day eco­nom­ic crime, we’re tak­ing action to make sure we reduce it in this coun­try.”

The Guardian high­light­ed Karen Mackie’s sto­ry in their cov­er­age of the NECC’s cre­ation. The woman from Aldershot, Hampshire lost her home and law prac­tice after scam­mers using a phish­ing tech­nique stole mon­ey direct­ly from her bank account. Ideally the estab­lish­ment of the NECC will even­tu­al­ly lead to a reduc­tion in eco­nom­ic crimes com­mit­ted by every­one from drug deal­ers and human traf­fick­ers, wealthy tax evaders, and every­day scam artists.

New U.K. Agency to Crack Down on Money Laundering

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