Accountants are ‘turning a blind eye to dirty money’
16 Sep 2019

Accountants are turning a blind eye to organised crime gangs making millions from fraud, the police chief who is heading Britain’s fight against economic crime has said.

Karen Baxter, police national lead on economic crime, said some accountants and lawyers were “complicit” or “complacent” in the laundering of “dirty” money and were undermining public trust in their professions.

In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph a year since taking the job, her first with a national newspaper, she said she had been surprised at how few alerts on “suspicious” transactions were passed to law enforcement by accountants and solicitors when most proceeds of crime “at some point probably go through them.”

A former homicide and anti-terror detective in Northern Ireland, she has come to the job with a fresh eye to “turn up the dial” against fraud which she admits has previously not been prioritised by police and wrongly portrayed as a “victimless crime.”

She is promising an “edgier” investigative approach, introducing covert tactics honed from counter-terror policing and detective skills where she brought to justice murderers and terrorist bombers in 26 years service in Northern Ireland.

As well as finding ways to “design out” fraud, she wants a “whole system approach” where the private sector – banks, accountants and lawyers – work with her fraud teams, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and cyber crime agencies on national and cross-border investigations.

She cites figures, due to be published next month, showing accountants and lawyers accounted for just 1.06 per cent and 0.58 per cent of the 470,000 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) to the NCA last year.

Fresh figures are due out this winter. “You will have accountants and solicitors who are professional enablers because they know exactly what they’re involved in and are getting really well paid to do their job for criminal gangsters.

Or they are complacent around understanding and looking at the detail of what they’re involved in,” she said.

“Some need to be more robust. It damages the trust of the profession when you have small groups that are not good in terms of their professional duties.”

By Charles Hymas, The Telegraph, 14 September 2019

Read more at The Telegraph

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