The Home Secretary and Chancellor will jointly chair a new government taskforce to work with senior figures from the U.K. financial sector to tackle economic crime, the U.K. government announced on 14 January.
The scale of this type of crime—including fraud, bribery, corruption, and money laundering—is estimated to be at least £14.4 billion (U.S. $18.5 billion) per year. The new Economic Crime Strategic Board will meet twice a year, set 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 chief executives from the banking institutions Barclays, Lloyds, and Santander, as well as senior representatives from U.K. Finance, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Accountants Affinity Group, and National Association of Estate Agents.
In a statement, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the government needs to act on all fronts to target corrupt fraudsters. “The government is already investing millions in the fight against economic crime, but it is crucial we work closely with our financial sector partners to win this battle,” he said.
The Home Office will commit £3.5 million (U.S. $4.5 million) in 2019/20 to support work to reform the suspicious activity reports regime (SARs). With the private sector, law enforcement, and regulators, the Home Office is co-designing a new, more efficient, and effective system that will benefit business and the public sector.
SARs are the mechanism used by regulated sectors—including the banking, accountancy, legal, and property sectors—to flag suspicions about potential money laundering and terrorist financing to the NCA.
The number of SARs reports rose last year by 10 percent to 463,938, compared with the previous year, including a 20 percent rise to 22,196 in requests for a defence against money laundering.
“Banks already spend over £5 billion [(U.S. $6.4 billion)] a year fighting economic crime, but the private sector can’t tackle it alone. That’s why the finance industry works closely with law enforcement and Government agencies to stop the threat and protect customers,” U.K. Finance Chair Bob Wigley said in a statement. “The new Economic Crime Strategic Board will strengthen these vital partnerships.”
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.