UK readies new unit to coordinate financial-crime fighters

11 December 2017 8:21am
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6 December 2017. By Martin Coyle and Ben Lucas.

A new government unit to improve cooperation between the UK’s economic crime-fighting agencies will be announced within days, MLex has learned.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd will announce plans for the Economic Crime Co-Ordination Centre, which will aim to ensure that financial crime cases don't get lost in the gaps between agencies. The announcement could be made as early as next week, it is understood.

The National Crime Agency is expected to play a leading role in the center. Earlier this month the Serious Fraud Office's chief executive, David Green, said the NCA would step in and play a "greater coordination role" in the UK's financial crime fighting by ensuring that cases are handled by the correct agency.

The expected announcement follows a year-long government review that has scrutinized the work of the SFO and NCA as well as the Competition and Markets Authority and Financial Conduct Authority. It will conclude that significantly deeper cooperation is needed among the agencies.

"The Economic Crime Review is ongoing and we will announce any measures resulting from the work in due course," a spokeswoman for the Home Office told MLex.

A spokesman for the NCA told MLex that "it would not be appropriate for the NCA to pre-empt any announcements."

The government will also disclose details of the UK’s long-awaited corruption-fighting strategy — initially promised for November 2016, MLex has learned. The strategy is expected to expand on a 66-point plan to tackle corruption outlined in December 2014.

The government is also expected to name a new UK "anti-corruption champion" — an official who promotes and coordinates the UK’s corruption strategy as well as holding the government to account for its efforts.

The role has been unfilled since the previous champion, Eric Pickles, retired at the time of the general election in June. Set up in 2004, the position was previously held by cabinet ministers, before the appointment in 2015 of Pickles, a former minister.

SFO future

While the impact of the review and new coordination center on the SFO is unclear, Green has said he is “entirely relaxed” about the future of the agency.

The government failed to include its controversial manifesto pledge to merge the SFO with the larger NCA when it set out its legislative agenda for the year in June. The plan had angered the legal community and campaign groups.

For antitrust enforcement, the review is understood to have examined the CMA's criminal powers, which allow officials to seek jail terms for individuals involved in cartels and price manipulation.

The Cabinet Office initially had been responsible for the economic crime review, but it was passed to the UK’s Home Office this autumn.

	Eliot Gao