Javid and Hammond team up to tackle £14bn of economic crimes

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Financial sector Javid and Hammond team up to tackle £14bn of economic crimes

New UK taskforce will crack down on money laundering, corruption, fraud and bribery

Ministers are concerned that economic crime is damaging the UK’s reputation as a global financial centre. Photograph: Michael Sannwald/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

The home secretary and chancellor are to launch a joint assault on fraud, bribery, corruption and money laundering.

Sajid Javid and Philip Hammond will chair a new taskforce that will work with senior figures in the financial sector to tackle economic crime. This is a broad category covering a range of illegal activity, with the Home Office estimating its scale to be at least £14.4bn a year.

Javid said: “We need to take action on all fronts to target the corrupt fraudsters who are lining their pockets with dirty money and living luxury lifestyles at the expense of law-abiding citizens.

“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. These criminals threaten the UK’s reputation as a world-leading place to do business and we have a joint responsibility to stop them.”

The chancellor said the UK is leading the world in the fight against illicit finance. He added: “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.”

The new taskforce, to be known as the Economic Crime Strategic Board, will set priorities, direct resources and scrutinise performance in dealing with economic crime. Its members also include bank chiefs, other government ministers, law enforcement figures and representatives from the legal, accountancy and property sectors.

At the board’s first meeting on Monday, the home secretary will confirm that his department will commit £3.5m in 2019/20 to support work to reform the suspicious activity reports (SARs) regime.

The reports are used to flag up potential money laundering, terrorist financing and other suspicious activity to the National Crime Agency. A record 463,938 SARs were received by the NCA during 2017-18, a 10% increase compared with the previous year.

The Home Office said that, in collaboration with the private sector, it is designing a system that is more efficient and effective.

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Bob Wigley, the chairman of UK Finance, said: “We want to ensure the UK is the safest and most transparent financial centre in the world. Banks already spend over £5bn 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. The new Economic Crime Strategic Board will strengthen these vital partnerships. As part of this, it’s vital that we have the best anti-money laundering reporting system possible. The industry is committed to supporting the government in reforming the existing regime and UK Finance is currently hosting a team of industry and Home Office experts to achieve just that.”

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