News ID: 239935
Published: 0820 GMT March 08, 2019

UK vulnerable to money laundering on a massive scale, find MPs

UK vulnerable to money laundering on a massive scale, find MPs
ft.com

Hundreds of billions of pounds could be being laundered through the UK every year, but the government is unable to give a precise figure of the scale of the problem, MPs have found.

In a report on economic crime, the Treasury committee said the scale of the problem in the UK was very uncertain, with estimates ranging from tens of billions of pounds upwards, theguardian.com wrote.

It called on the government to provide a more precise estimate in order to formulate more effective strategies to tackle the problem.

It said the UK government should regularly review its efforts to crack down on money laundering, and should not compromise on supervision when securing post-Brexit trade deals.

The report comes after the Guardian and partners around the world revealed how Russian money had been channeled into the UK and used to pay for everything from luxury properties and cars to school fees. Speaking earlier this week, the minister for national security, Ben Wallace, said it was wrong to think of money laundering as a victimless crime.

“Those with dirty cash to clean don’t just sit on it,” he said.

“They reinvest it in serious organized crime, from drug importation to child sexual exploitation, human trafficking and even terrorism.”

The committee said the government’s efforts to improve action against companies involved in economic crime seemed to have been stalled by Brexit, and warned the UK’s departure from the EU presented “both risks and opportunities”.

Its chair, Nicky Morgan, said the government “must ensure it does not bow to buccaneering deregulatory pressures and maintain its intentions to lead in the fight against economic crime”.

The committee said the UK’s system to prevent money laundering was ‘highly fragmented’, with 25 separate organizations supervising the checks, many of them trade bodies for accountants and solicitors.

It said this was of particular concern where property and company formations were concerned.

Estate agents have previously been criticized for not doing enough to prevent the proceeds of corruption being used to buy UK property, and the committee said

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) should ensure that they were all registered and following best practice.

She added, “The government needs to bring greater order to a fragmented supervisory system, better identify the scale of the problem, and make a greater effort to combat the known risks and gaps in the supervisory system.”

Duncan Hames, the director of Policy Transparency International UK and one of the witnesses who gave evidence to the MPs, said he welcomed the serious attention being given to the ‘flood of dirty money into the UK’.

He added, “The committee’s report reinforces our own findings that the UK economy is vulnerable to abuse by corrupt individuals who have made it a key location in which to launder the proceeds of their crimes.

“Police estimates for this problem have repeatedly been of the order of £100 billion a year, it could be far in excess of that, but what matters now is not how much more, but how we respond.”

   
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