New measures announced to tackle economic crime

A new economic crime hub will be set up to lead the fight against money laundering and fraud.

Dec 11, 2017

A new economic crime hub will be set up to lead the fight against money laundering and fraud. The National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) will coordinate the UK’s response to fraud and corruption, according to Home Secretary Amber Rudd. The centre, announced on Monday (December 11), will sit within the National Crime Agency (NCA) and will be backed by greater intelligence and analytical capabilities. It comes as part of a package of anti-corruption measures including giving the NCA some oversight for the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Ms Rudd will also chair a new economic crime strategic board to agree strategic priorities against economic crime and allocate resources for law enforcement. “There is a myth that there are no real victims of economic crime, but I have seen first-hand how it can ruin people’s lives,” said Ms Rudd. “It is not a victimless crime and so it’s vital we tackle these offences that can leave innocent people destitute, cost the country billions every year, and allow gangs to profit from serious and violent crimes. “The measures we have announced today will significantly improve our ability to tackle the most serious cases of economic crime by ensuring our agencies have the tools and investment they need to investigate, prosecute and confiscate criminal assets.” Latest government figures estimate that fraud costs the UK economy £6.8 billion each year and that one in 17 people have fallen victim to the crime. The Crime Survey for England and Wales shows 3.3 million fraud offences were committed in the 12 months to June – almost a third of all recorded crime. The NCA believes that more than £90 billion is also being laundered through the UK every year as offenders seek to hide the proceeds of drug dealing and human trafficking. Under the new measures, the SFO will continue to act as an independent organisation but the NCA will be able to task it with investigations. The policy has been watered down since first being announced in the 2017 Conservative election manifesto, which promised to incorporate the SFO directly into the NCA. The Government has also published a new Anti-Corruption Strategy focusing on strengthening the UK’s integrity as a financial centre. It has appointed John Penrose, MP for Weston-Super-Mare, as its ‘anti-corruption champion’ to monitor the implementation of the strategy. Andrew Smith, partner at law firm Corker Binning, said: “On paper this is an ambitious strategy, and part of a broader drive towards increasing transparency and accountability in financial services in particular. “But the recent political past is littered with such strategies. Whether the NECC can achieve its lofty ambitions is ultimately a question of funding and expertise.”

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