More than 900,000 SARs received by NCA in last financial year

More than 900,000 Suspicious Activity Report (SARs) were received by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the last financial year, up by more than 20 per cent on the previous 12 months.

Jan 24, 2023
By Paul Jacques

In “another record year”, the NCA said it ‘denied’ £305.7 million to suspected criminals as a result of Defence Against Money Laundering (DAML) requests – a 120.6 per cent increase on the £138.6 million denied in 2020/21.

In its latest SARs Annual Report published on Tuesday (January 24), which features statistics covering the years 2020/21 and 2021/22, the NCA said: “Another record set in the last financial year with 901,255 SARs received and processed – a 21 per cent increase on the previous year.”

SARs are submitted to the NCA by those working in regulated sectors such as banking, legal and financial services, where they suspect that transactions are being used to launder money or conceal criminal activity.

“The financial and predicate crimes intelligence provided by SARs has proved to be invaluable” as criminals sought to take advantage of the pandemic to advance their illicit enterprises,” said the NCA.

“More recently, as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, SARs have provided increasingly important information on money laundering linked to sanctioned individuals and their associated entities.”

In 2022, the NCA set up the new Combatting Kleptocracy Cell (CKC), with a remit that includes the investigation of criminal sanctions evasion and high-end money laundering.

SARs are an important component of the information coming into the cell, and the UK Financial Intelligence Unit (UKFIU) – which receives, processes and assesses SARs on behalf of the NCA – now has a dedicated team to work as part of the CKC.

Under the SARs Reform Project, the UKFIU has undertaken a significant transformation since the last report with new methods of working and new teams.

This has included an uplift in staff to more than 150 and measures are in place to reach the target of 201 by the end of the next financial year, driving increased analysis and engagement within the SARs regime, said the NCA.

Vince O’Brien, head of the UKFIU, said: “SARs are vital to the fight against money laundering, illicit finance and wider criminality.

“Major improvements to the UKFIU through the SARs Reform Project, including the establishment of dedicated analytical teams to support specific operational requirements such as those of the CKC, and further enhancements rolling out over the next 24 months, will ensure we maximise the intelligence value derived from SARs, driving greater impact on economic and other crime, and helping to keep the UK public and businesses safe.”

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