UK authorities set up new taskforce to tackle economic crime

Maria Nikolova

The board includes senior executives from banking institutions as well as representatives from UK Finance, the National Crime Agency, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Accountants Affinity Group and National Association of Estate Agents.

The UK Home Secretary and Chancellor will today jointly chair a new government taskforce which will work with senior figures from the UK financial sector to tackle economic crime.

The new Economic Crime Strategic Board, which set to meet twice a year, will determine priorities, direct resources and scrutinise performance against the economic crime threat, which is set out in the Serious and Organised Crime (SOC) Strategy.

The board includes senior executives from Barclays, Lloyds and Santander as well as representatives from UK Finance, the National Crime Agency (NCA), the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Accountants Affinity Group and National Association of Estate Agents.

The scale of economic crime – which includes fraud, bribery, corruption and money laundering – is estimated to be at least £14.4 billion per year. The Home Office will commit £3.5 million in 2019/20 to support work to reform the suspicious activity reports regime (SARs). SARs are the mechanism used by members of the regulated sectors, including the banking, accountancy, legal and property sectors to flag up suspicions about potential money laundering and terrorist financing to the NCA.

The NCA received a record number of reports last year. The number of SARs reports rose by about 10% to 463,938 during 2017-18, compared with the previous year, including a 20% rise to 22,196 in requests for a defence against money laundering.

The number of SARs reports rose by about 10% to 463,938 during 2017-18, compared with the previous year, including a 20% rise to 22,196 in requests for a defence against money laundering.

Other measures in the SOC Strategy include additional investment in the multi-agency National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) which is now operational and includes officers from the NCA, HM Revenue and Customs, City of London Police, Serious Fraud Office, Financial Conduct Authority Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office.

Let’s note that the number of individuals banned by the FCA in the year to September 20, 2018, increased 28% from the preceding year, according to data from City-headquartered professional services firm RPC. The number of such bans reached 23 in 2017/18, up from just 18 the previous year.

RPC attributed the rise in the number of prohibition orders to the FCA’s efforts to deter misconduct by individuals. The FCA also believes that punishments aimed at individuals may have a greater impact on improving the overall compliance culture at firms, rather than just issuing fines against the firms themselves.

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