Money laundering: Britain to set up a national economic crime centre

Britain said on Monday it would create a new national economic crime center to crack down harder on money laundering by drug dealers and people traffickers who are expected to net 90 billion pounds ($120.3 billion) this year, home secretary Amber Rudd said. Rudd announced plans for a national economic crime centre that will sit within the National Crime Agency (NCA) and will be backed by greater intelligence and analytical capabilities.

The new organisation, part of a revised anti-corruption strategy, is being set up after a sweeping audit of the UK’s economic crime agencies, led by the Cabinet Office, that has taken several months.

"The measures we have announced today will significantly improve our ability to tackle the most serious cases of economic crime by ensuring our agencies have the tools and investment they need to investigate, prosecute and confiscate criminal assets," Rudd said in a statement. “We are very clear we expect higher standards of integrity in this country.”

“There is a myth that there are no real victims of economic crime, but I have seen first-hand how it can ruin people’s lives. It is not a victimless crime and so it’s vital we tackle these offences that can leave innocent people destitute, cost the country billions every year, and allow gangs to profit from serious and violent crimes. ”

Official estimates suggest about £90bn a year in criminal money is laundered through the UK, while fraud costs a further £6.8bn annually. The Home Office said the National Economic Crime Centre would co-ordinate the national response to fraud and corruption, “backed by greater intelligence and analytical capabilities”. 

The NCA will in turn be able to task the SFO to investigate the worst offenders. Despite this, the government says that the SFO will continue to operate as an independent organisation, and that the step is to "improve the coordination of the law enforcement response".

The Conservative Party pledged to scrap the SFO ahead of the General Election earlier this year, by folding it into the NCA. Theresa May has floated the same plan twice before during her time as home secretary.

But lawyers had advised the government against the measure, and the plan appears to have now been scrapped.