Anti-money laundering taskforce unveiled

25 Feb 2015 04:54 PM

High-ranking figures from the Government, banks and law enforcement agencies met yesterday to discuss new ways to tackle financial crime.

The Home Secretary, the Governor of the Bank of England and the Chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) co-chaired the second Serious and Organised Crime Business Breakfast this morning. It was organised to take stock of progress since an inaugural meeting to foster greater collaboration between finance and law enforcement was held in April 2014.

Creating a hostile environment for criminals

The first Breakfast led to the establishment of the Financial Sector Forum, which meets three times a year to identify practical opportunities to make the UK’s financial sector a more hostile environment for criminal activity, build international cooperation and help to recover the proceeds of crime more quickly and effectively.

A key achievement of the Forum is the Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce (JMLIT), a new 12-month pilot project developed by the Home Office, National Crime Agency (NCA), City of London Police, British Bankers’ Association (BBA) and other financial institutions. Its aim is to improve intelligence sharing arrangements to aid the fight against money laundering and build upon the national leadership against organised economic and financial crime provided by the Economic Crime Command in the NCA.

Delegates at the Breakfast, including NCA Director General Keith Bristow and Anthony Browne, chief executive of the BBA, also explored how to develop and further strengthen the relationship between public and private sector bodies. Discussions focused on tackling terrorist financing and information sharing around cyber crime.

And the Home Office fulfilled a commitment of the UK Anti-Corruption Plan by launching a Call for Information to support its review of the regime through which suspicious activity is reported by financial institutions. Key partners have the opportunity to contribute their views on how the regime could be improved.

An active partnership with industry

Home Secretary Theresa May said yesterday:

The scale and complexity of serious and organised crime, including financial crime such as money laundering, requires more than just a law enforcement response. It requires active partnership between government and industry.

Working alongside the Bank of England, the Financial Conduct Authority, law enforcement agencies and the banks, the Financial Sector Forum has helped to collectively understand the threat posed by such criminality, disrupt the activities of those behind it, and protect our institutions from the damage it can cause.

The launch of the Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce today marks the next stage in this relationship and demonstrates the progress that we have made. It also shows real leadership and commitment from the banks.

But we cannot stop there. That is why we are meeting again to discuss how we can step up our efforts and make the UK the world’s most hostile environment for money launderers.

Anthony Browne, chief executive of the BBA, said:

When banks, the government and law enforcement work together we are undoubtedly stronger in our efforts to combat crime. That’s why we are playing a leading role in sharing key intelligence to help protect our customers from fraud and catch sophisticated criminals.

The BBA will ensure that this information is shared directly with the full range of banks in the UK via our new Financial Crime Alerts Service which launches in April.

Ultimately this will help us to make sure that London has one of the toughest regimes of any financial centre in the world.

NCA Director General Keith Bristow said:

This is about shared endeavour in the space where the responsibilities of law enforcement, government and the financial sector overlap.

The only people who benefit from gaps in money laundering intelligence are the criminals who want to exploit the UK’s financial systems for their own profit at the expense of the public.

None of us wants them to be able to do that. We still have some way to go, but this is a really positive start.

City of London Police Commander Steve Head, the Police National Coordinator for Economic Crime, said:

Serious and organised crime costs the UK an estimated £24 billion each year, with a significant proportion of this money being moved through and then out of our banking system, to be either spent or used to fund other criminal activities.

The Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce (JMLIT) has been set-up to improve the way we are sharing information across our financial sector and with law enforcement and government. This in turn will give us a better understanding of how the banking system is being exploited, enabling us to choke off the flow of illegal funds that are the life-blood of these highly dangerous and destructive criminal enterprises and ensure the financial sector is better protected, which is good news for us and bad news for those operating on the wrong side of the law.

The City of London Police is proud to be a part of the alliance that established the JMLIT and is now looking forward to hosting the Taskforce with the Corporation of London and working with partners to drive forward this work targeting serious and organised criminal networks.

Sharing information to beat the money launderers

Organised crime is a significant threat to UK national security. It costs the UK at least £24 billion each year and impacts our economy and our growth. Money laundering is a key enabler of organised crime – it risks damaging the integrity and stability of financial markets and institutions, undermines consumer confidence and threatens the reputation of businesses and the City.

The JMLIT has been developed to provide an environment in which the financial sector and law enforcement agencies can exchange and analyse information and intelligence to detect, prevent and disrupt money laundering and wider economic crime threats against the UK. It will run for an initial period of 12 months.

Representatives from the financial sector, NCA and City of London Police will be based in a single hub to develop an operational level understanding of money laundering risks. The banks involved are: Lloyds, Santander, HSBC, Nationwide, Post Office, RBS, Barclays, Citigroup, BNP Paribas and Standard Chartered.

This operational hub will be supported by a strategic group focused on building a common threat picture of how criminals operate. Banks will only be allowed to share information if it is for the prevention and detection of crime.

Information and intelligence will be processed and disseminated via the BBA’s Financial Crime Alerts Service. Other law enforcement agencies and financial institutions involved include HMRC, Financial Fraud Action UK and Cifas.