Government launches economic crime taskforce

The Home Secretary and Chancellor are to jointly chair a government taskforce which will work with senior figures from the UK financial sector to tackle economic crime, including fraud, bribery, corruption and money laundering, which is estimated to cost the UK at least £14.4bn annually

The new Economic Crime Strategic Board, which will meet twice a year, will set priorities, direct resources and scrutinise performance against the economic crime threat, which is set out in the government’s serious and organised crime (SOC) strategy.

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

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, said: ‘The UK is leading the world in the fight against illicit finance, preventing fraudsters from stealing billions from the public each year. We know more can be done which is why the Home Secretary and I are launching the first ever cross-departmental board to prevent more people from becoming victims of economic crime.

‘By bringing together specialists across the public and private sector, we can use the best of our expertise to maintain our status as a global financial centre.’

At the board meeting, the Home Secretary will confirm that the Home Office will commit £3.5m 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.

Bob Wigley, chair of UK Finance, said: ‘Banks already spend over £5bn a year fighting economic crime, but the private sector cannot tackle it alone. That is why the finance industry works closely with law enforcement and government agencies to stop the threat and protect customers. 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, HMRC, City of London Police, Serious Fraud Office, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office.

Report by Pat Sweet

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