Legislation aimed at confronting criminal finances and corruption published by Home Office

Law enforcement agencies will be given new powers to seize the proceeds of crime and demand criminals explain the origins of their wealth under new legislation that has just been issued by the Conservative Government.

The Criminal Finances Bill will also strengthen the partnership between the public and private sectors, boosting the fight against illegal activity. Among the measures being introduced are unexplained wealth orders, which will force those suspected of serious crime to explain where their wealth has come from or otherwise risk having it seized.

These orders will improve the recovery of illicit funds and prevent the UK from being used as a safe haven for the proceeds of international corruption.

Criminals will no longer be able to keep their ill-gotten gains out of the reach of law enforcement by hiding them in assets which officers currently cannot seize. Now, officers will be able to seize a range of items including precious metals and stones and even works of art.

Officers will also be able to take swift and effective action to forfeit criminal or terrorist funds held in bank accounts.

Security Minister Ben Wallace said: “The UK is one of the best places in the world to do business, but it will only stay that way if we take steps to protect the integrity of our financial system and the security of our citizens. We will not stand by and watch criminals use the UK to launder their ‘dirty money’ or fund terrorism. This legislation ensures that the UK is taking a world-leading role in cracking down on corruption and sends a clear message to the criminals – we will take your liberty and your money.”

Anthony Browne, CEO of the British Bankers’ Association, added: “Reforms are needed to protect individual victims and the economy. The Criminal Finances Bill provides an opportunity for the public and private sectors to stay ahead of the criminals.”

Procedures to prevent cheating

Stephen Morse, tax partner at PwC, commented: “Companies will have to ensure that they’re not helping people to evade tax by having reasonable procedures in place designed to prevent cheating. The fact that the Government is issuing guidance on these measures recognises the challenges companies will face. How do they develop safeguards to stop people intent on concealing assets and cheating tax? It will be important for companies to carefully consider the level of risk they face and ensure that procedures are appropriate and properly implemented. If not, the criminal acts of individual employees could result in criminal liability and significant financial penalties for companies.”

Tom Keatinge, director of RUSI’s Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies, said: “This Bill is a crucial next step on the Government’s journey to upgrade the UK’s financial crime-fighting architecture and provide a response that matches the scale of the threat, but we cannot rely on legislation alone. Momentum in implementing the AML Action Plan must be maintained, addressing the under-resourcing and effectiveness of the UK Government’s capability. This Bill should be roundly welcomed and addresses some key weaknesses in the current regime. However, several material outstanding deficiencies must be addressed prior to the Financial Action Task Force evaluating the UK next year, in particular the staffing of, and investment in, the UK Government agencies directly responsible for tackling financial crime and the continued inefficiencies of the Suspicious Activity Reporting regime.”

Keatinge concluded: “As the Home Affairs Committee emphasised in July, the Government’s financial investigation skills shortage needs to be addressed. The under-investment in technology is deeply concerning. We cannot rely solely on new legislation, however effective and welcome this may be.”

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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