The CMA’s Annual Report and digital markets - a time of change
Shortly after the referendum result, I attended a meeting in Whitehall to which representatives of a wide range of criminal justice agencies had been invited. Our host, a policy official, told us that Brexit was to be viewed as an opportunity and asked us to identify the specific opportunities Brexit afforded us in our work. There was a stony silence; a tumbleweed moment. We all knew that, as the Institute for Government would later pithily observe, the UK would struggle to invent an arrangement on law enforcement co-operation with the EU that suits it better than the one it has now. What’s more, as matters stand, these arrangements will come to a grinding halt in little over a month. Where will that leave those agencies tasked with dealing with serious cross-border crime?
The Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) has been available to law enforcement since February 2018. UWOs are intended to bolster the Proceeds of Crime regime, by making it easier for law enforcement agencies to seize assets suspected of representing criminal property.
At the end of 2018 the Government published its “ 1 Year Update” of the Anti-Corruption Strategy 2017-20 (“the Update”). This report set out that “corruption and economic crime undermines our economy, damages our international reputation and communities.” It concludes that the Government’s “commitment and effectiveness” in this area is demonstrated by “the UK’s strong performance” in the independent review of money laundering and terrorist financing undertaken by the Financial Action Task Force and its top tier ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
In December 2018, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) published its report on the UK regime to counter money laundering (ML) and terrorist financing (TF). The report praises the strength of the UK regime, noting that the UK has a ‘robust’ understanding of ML/TF risk, and proactively investigates, prosecutes and convicts ML and TF. The report cites that the UK achieves “around 7900 investigations, 2000 prosecutions and 1400 convictions annually for stand-alone ML offences or where ML is the principle offence”.
At the end of last year the National Crime Agency published its annual report on Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) for 2018. Media reporting (such as in the FT, subscription required), on the annual report has focussed, amongst other things, on the relatively small proportion of SARs made by lawyers. Is this a fair criticism and, if so, what is the reason for it?
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