A new government task force has been set up to fight economic crime which is costing the UK £14 billion a year.
Jointly headed by Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor Of The Exchequer Philip Hammond, the new unit will include a new economic crime strategic board made up of the chief executives of Britain’s high street banks together with senior representatives from regulators and other bodies.
It has been promised £3.5 million in funds to reform the current suspicious activity report (SAR) scheme.
SARs are the mechanism used by the banking, accountancy, legal and property sectors to warn the National Crime Agency (NCA) of any suspicious activities which could be potential money laundering or terrorist financing.
The number of incidents rose by 10% to a record 463,938 in 2017-18 and officials are currently working on a new system to make the operation more efficient and effective.
SARs reform is one of the central commitments in the government’s Serious Organised Crime Strategy, announced last November with an overall budget of £48 million.
Home Secretary Savid 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.”
Chancellor Philip Hammond added: “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.”
Bob Wigley, chairman of banking trade body 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 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.
“As part of this, it is 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.”