Money laundering: ‘Rise in UK suspicious activity reports should not mask failing system’
25 Jan 2019

The increase in the number of suspicious activity reports (SARS) filed by the private sector should not mask the inadequacy’s of Britain’s financial crime prevention regime, according to anti-corruption campaigners.

New figures from the National Crime Agency show that the number of SARS filed edged up to almost half a million in the year. The FIU received 463,938 SARs between April 2017 to March 2018, a 9.60% increase on 2016-17’s figure of 423,304.

“The NCA report states that less than one per cent of the more than £100 billion in illicit funds estimated to pass through the UK each year is stopped as a result of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs),” said Transparency International, “this echoes the recent Financial Action Task Force UK review that found the system for receiving SARs being unfit for purpose.”

“A lack of funding from the Government means around 80 staff are tasked with investigating more than 460,000 reports, whilst an out-of-date IT system to receive and analyse reports is undermining efforts.”

A review of the UK’s SARS regime also pointed to its ‘badly outdated’ IT system. Transparency International said it welcomed the intention for this to be reformed, but added that other areas need to be addressed.

Rachel Davies Teka, Head of Advocacy at Transparency International UK, said: “With the scale of dirty money flowing into and through the UK each year remaining as high as ever it is vital that those on the frontline of defending against this activity are vigilant and acting on suspicious activity.

“On the one hand it’s good news that the number of SARs is up but it’s very worrying that they are down in key sectors such as lawyers and trust or company service providers.”

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