02 Nov 2018
The United Kingdom has published its strategy to tackle money laundering and other serious crime, outlining a crackdown on professional enablers and sectors targeted by launderers, such as public schools.
Officials estimate that billions are laundered through the UK annually, impacting its reputation and economy. Under its Serious and Organised Crime Strategy published on Thursday, the Home Office has set out a four-point plan to address crime, which includes aligning its collective efforts to respond as a single system.
It discussed its new National Economic Crime Centre, which will be staffed by partners from across the law enforcement community, including the National Crime Agency, Financial Conduct Authority, HMRC, City of London Police, Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office, as well as from the private sector.
The government will also inject £48 million across 18 months to tackle financial crime, which will enable it to “use new and improved capabilities to better freeze, seize or otherwise deny criminals access to their finances, assets and infrastructure,” said Ben Wallace, Minister for Security and Economic Crime.
The Home Office also highlighted its aim to tackle those sectors that have been less active in tipping off the police of suspicious issues that may be linked to money laundering. These include ‘professional enablers,’ such as lawyers and accountants.
Estate agents have also been attacked for being ‘less willing’ to file suspicious activity reports (SARs) with the authorities.
Of the around 620,000 SARs submitted, estate agents filed only 1%, compared to 83% by the banking sector. Public schools were also singled out in the report as one of sectors that need to be addressed.
Although schools are not obliged to file SARS, they are subject to money laundering regulations.
Wallace said: “Illicit finance crops up in many places where people should be asking questions. London property, public schools, sports teams and purveyors of luxury goods. For too long this has gone unchallenged.
“The new Serious and Organised Crime strategy, which I am publishing today, will ensure that there will be no safe space for serious and organised criminals to operate.”
Serious and organised crime – which includes crimes such as child abuse, drug trafficking and money laundering – is estimated to cost society at least £37 billion each year, and there are over 4,600 organised crime groups thought to be operating in the UK.
The Strategy also outlined various tools or laws at enforcements disposal to tackle illicit finance, including the recently introduced unexplained wealth orders, and upcoming schemes, such as a reform to its Scottish limited partnerships framework and a new public register of overseas ownership of firms that own a UK property.
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