15 May 2019
Facing unprecedented pressure to clamp down on criminal groups, UK law enforcement officials are in need of an additional £2.7 billion in funding over the next three years, the head of the National Crime Agency (NCA) said Monday.
The agency is seeking a 54-percent increase in its annual budget, which would bring its yearly funding up from £650 million to £1 billion, NCA Director General Lynne Owens said in a speech announcing the publication of the UK’s national strategic assessment of serious and organised crime.
“Some may say that we cannot afford to do that, to which my response is, we cannot afford not to,” said Owens. “The investment will enable us to resource growing demand and to build capabilities in areas such as digital forensics, covert surveillance, financial investigations and other critical skills that we need to combat serious and organised crime in the 21stcentury.”
The budget request comes as UK law enforcement officials are “under pressure as never before” to combat a rise in the number, and complexity, of serious crime cases that has accompanied increasing sophistication by criminal groups, according to Owens.
Serious organised crime costs the UK economy at least £37 billion per year, though this figure is “highly likely to be a significant underestimate, particularly in relation to areas such as fraud,” the NCA concluded in the assessment, which also addressed human and sex trafficking, cybercrime, the abuse of cryptocurrencies, drug smuggling and other illicit activity.
While estimates of the total value of dirty money flowing through the United Kingdom remain elusive, it is a “realistic possibility that the scale of money laundering impacting the UK is in the hundreds of billions of pounds annually,” the report said.
The NCA noted in the assessment that criminal groups continue to exploit UK and overseas vehicles, the services of complicit accountants and solicitors, financial transactions involving cryptocurrencies and alternative banking platforms, and trade-based schemes to disguise and transfer their ill-gotten wealth.
“A growing number of professional money launderers have been observed working outside of or in combination with international controller networks,” the NCA said.
On Sunday, the agency disclosed that it had seized around £6 million in assets owned by three individuals, including a property developer and barrister, believed to be part of an international money laundering network that helped transfer the proceeds of a Russian state embezzlement scheme and various frauds in the UK.
The money laundering ring involved a “series of companies” in the UK, Russia, Austria, Croatia, Seychelles, the British Virgin Islands and the United States, according to the agency.
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