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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

New 'national economic crime centre' to tackle money laundering

The Home Office has announced a new division to tackle fraud issues, including money laundering.

A new national economic crime centre within the National Crime Agency will task and coordinate the national response to economic crime, backed by “greater intelligence and analytical capabilities” than in the past.

It will draw on expertise from across government, law enforcement and criminal justice agencies, as well as new resources provided by the private sector.

New legislation will allow the NCA to directly task the Serious Fraud Office to investigate the worst offenders - although the Home Office says the SFO will continue to act as an independent organisation.

The government has also repeated a commitment to introduce an overseas companies beneficial ownership register, which is being developed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

It will mean that overseas companies that own or buy property in the UK, or participate in central government procurement, will be required to provide details of their ultimate owners. 

The government says this will reduce the opportunities for criminals to use shell companies to launder their illicitly gained wealth in London property, and make it easier for law enforcement to track and act on criminal funds.

In October we reported that only one in every 300 property purchases in the UK by overseas buyers triggers a so-called ‘red flag’ with the National Crime Agency.

Fortytwo Data, an anti-money laundering consultancy, says that in Britain some 1.2m property deals created only 355 Suspicious Activity Reports in the year to March 2016; SARs are red flag warnings sent by estate agents, financial institutions and law firms to the National Crime Agency when they detect suspicious activity.

Fortytwo Data says this translates into only 0.33 per cent of cash purchases by overseas buyers triggering alerts - roughly one in every 300 sales.

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