The United Kingdom adopted a bill aimed at stemming the flow of dirty money coming into the country through enhancements to government agency capabilities and law enforcement.
The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act received royal assent Thursday. The bill, introduced in September 2022, provides the United Kingdom with “world-leading powers” to allow its authorities to “target organized criminals and others seeking to abuse the U.K.’s open economy,” the government said in a news release.
Among the bill’s provisions, Companies House, the U.K. agency that maintains the country’s corporate registers, will receive enhanced abilities to verify the identities of company directors and remove fraudulently registered organizations.
The agency’s investigation and enforcement powers will also be beefed up, enabling it to cross-check data with other organizations and report suspicious activity to security agencies and law enforcement.
The U.K. government said the powers granted to Companies House represent the agency’s “biggest shakeup” in its 180-year history. Upon the bill’s proposal, experts told Compliance Week the success of the changes will likely hinge on the amount of resources dedicated toward the agency.
“We’re providing Companies House with the tools to take a much harder line on criminals who take advantage of the U.K.’s open economy, ensuring the reputation of our businesses is not tarnished by the U.K. playing host to the world’s scammers,” said U.K. Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake in the release.
The bill also contains changes to corporate liability, including the creation of a criminal offense for failure to prevent fraud that will hold organizations liable for benefitting from fraud committed by employees. The National Crime Agency will gain new powers to compel businesses to hand over information suspected to be used for money laundering or terrorist financing, while the NCA and law enforcement agencies will also receive greater authority to seize, freeze, and recover crypto assets.