The United Kingdom’s Home Office and HM Treasury is planning to institute a broad array of changes to bolster its anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism defenses by strengthening law enforcement powers, bank oversight and punishment and improving international cooperation.
The broad changes, part of a new “action plan” released last week to address persistent and emerging risks, perceived deficiencies and improve information collection, analysis and outcomes, are being hailed as “the most significant change to our anti-money laundering and terrorist finance regime in over a decade,” according to a joint statement in the plan.
At the heart of the action plan is “radically more information to be shared between law enforcement agencies, supervisors, and the private sector; and we need to take joint action to disrupt criminals and terrorists.”
Part and parcel of that is the pilot Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce (JMLIT), which has brought together law enforcement agencies and ten banks under the leadership of the National Crime Agency (NCA) to share information on money laundering and terrorist financing, a move that has “demonstrated the opportunities offered by this type of approach.”
This action plan centers on three key areas:
- First, a more robust law enforcement response by “creating aggressive new legal powers and building new capabilities in our law enforcement agencies to enable the relentless disruption of criminals and terrorists.” This would be in addition to newly formed cross-agency taskforce to investigate any evidence of illegality that may be found in the ‘Mossack Fonseca’ Panama papers.
- Second, to retool the supervisory regime and ensure that those “few companies who facilitate or enable money laundering are brought to task.” The UK government and regulators “will continue to maintain our strong regulatory regime to ensure that our financial services industry is the best regulated in the world.”
- Third, to “increase our international reach to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing threats by working with international groups, such as the G20 and Financial Action Task Force, to take action overseas.”
The government is already improving on some metrics, according to the action plan.
More assets have been recovered from criminals than ever before, with a record £199 million recovered in 2014/15, and hundreds of millions more frozen and put beyond the reach of criminals.
Some of the key points detailed in the action plan include:
- Reform the Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) regime, making the necessary legislative, operational and technical changes to deliver the proposals detailed in this Action Plan to make them more valuable to law enforcement.
- Move the Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce (JMLIT) to a permanent footing.
- Create a register of banks’ particular business specialisms and make it available to JMLIT to ensure that relevant expertise is brought into JMLIT work on money laundering and terrorist financing typologies.
- Create a programme to upskill intelligence, analytical, investigative and legal staff to take on complex money laundering cases
- Reduce vulnerabilities and close loopholes that can be exploited by terrorists.
The overall sentiment is that the country wants to send a clear message that “we will not stand for money laundering or the funding of terrorism through UK institutions. We are determined to protect the security and prosperity of our citizens, and the integrity of our world-leading financial system, and will vigorously pursue those who abuse it for illicit means.”