Length of UK Prison Terms for Money Launderers at Record High in 2018: Report
03 Sep 2019

Convicted money launderers in the UK are facing longer prison terms following revisions to the jurisdiction’s sentencing guidelines in 2014, the Financial Times reported Sunday.

The average prison sentence for money-laundering offences rose to 27 months in 2018, marking a 32-percent increase from the average in December 2008 and a record high for convicted UK money launderers, the newspaper reported, citing research by Thomson Reuters. 

Under the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act, money launderers can face up to 14 years in prison or pay a sizeable fine, though such monetary penalties have been imposed less frequently in recent years, the FT said. The 2014 sentencing guidelines allow prosecutors to argue for tougher prison sentences for individuals found guilty of money laundering or bribery. 

The Sentencing Council guidelines have been tougher in part because of their emphasis on the impact that financial crimes have on victims, including any related distress, inconvenience or monetary loss.  

“The new sentencing guidelines have opened the door for prosecutors to demand even longer sentences for the UK’s money launderers,” Charles Thomson, a partner at Baker McKenzie, told the newspaper. “It seems as though judges are more willing than ever to accept prosecutions’ cases that money-laundering offences deserve some of the harshest punishments available.”

The research follows a disclosure earlier this year that the number of suspicious activity reports (SARs) that the UK National Crime Agency received in 2018 reached a record 463,938—a nearly 10-percent jump from the total filed in 2017. Of those, more than 22,000 reports cited suspected money laundering, marking a 20-percent increase from the previous year, the FT reported in January. 

The SARs, however, led to only 40 arrests across 28 investigations, the newspaper said. 

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