Official estimates suggest about £90bn a year in criminal money is laundered through the UK © EPA
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Billions of pounds have been laundered through the City of London, home secretary Amber Rudd said on Monday as she announced plans for a national economic crime centre.
The new organisation, part of a revised anti-corruption strategy, is being set up after a sweeping audit of the UK’s economic crime agencies, led by the Cabinet Office, that has taken several months.
“Today we are taking action against economic crime, and by that I mean the high-level crime, the billions that have been laundered through the City of London,” Ms Rudd said. “We are very clear we expect higher standards of integrity in this country.”
“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. 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.”
Official estimates suggest about £90bn a year in criminal money is laundered through the UK, while fraud costs a further £6.8bn annually.
The Home Office said the National Economic Crime Centre would co-ordinate the national response to fraud and corruption, “backed by greater intelligence and analytical capabilities”. It will sit within the National Crime Agency and include representatives from the City Of London Police, the Serious Fraud Office, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Home Office, the Crown Prosecution Service and HM Revenue & Customs.
“Together we will make the UK a hostile environment for serious and organised criminals involved in economic crime, increasing the risk of them losing their liberty and losing their criminal assets,” said Nigel Kirby, the NCA’s deputy director.
The review of the UK’s economic crime-fighting capabilities had raised fears over the future of the SFO — concerns that increased after the Conservative election manifesto included a pledge to roll the fraud office into the NCA.
That pledge was dropped after the election, however, and in recent weeks David Green, the SFO’s head, had professed himself to be “highly relaxed” over the organisation’s fate.
A successor to Mr Green, who is due to step down next April, has not been announced.
The new anti-corruption strategy will also target “corrupt insiders” in the organisations that oversee Britain’s prisons, policing and defence. Other priorities for the NECC will include reducing corruption in public procurement and grants, and strengthening Britain as a financial centre.