UK's economic crime-fighting review handed over to security ministry

Gavel in front of Union Flag

13 October 2017. By Martin Coyle and Ben Lucas.

A review of the UK's economic crime-fighting capabilities, which could impact the country's corruption, competition and financial-sector agencies, has been transferred to the Home Office.

The Cabinet Office, which assists the prime minister, handed the review within the last few weeks to the Home Office, the government department responsible for security, law and order and immigration. Both departments have confirmed the move to MLex, but declined to comment further.

The review, announced last December, is scrutinizing the work of the main agencies tasked with fighting financial crime in the country, including the Serious Fraud Office, the National Crime Agency, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Competition and Markets Authority.

Both the review and a separate pledge to merge the fraud agency into the NCA, made by Prime Minister Theresa May ahead of the general election in June, cast a shadow over the SFO's future as an independent body.

For antitrust enforcement, the review is understood to cover the CMA's criminal powers, which allow officials to seek jail terms for individuals involved in price fixing.

On Wednesday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond met with representatives of the SFO, the NCA and other government departments to discuss the review. It is unclear whether FCA or CMA representatives attended the meeting. 

Government officials declined to comment on the outcome of that meeting or when conclusions from the study might be made public. "The economic crime review is ongoing and we will announce any measures resulting from the work in due course," a Home Office spokeswoman said.

The government hasn't revealed much about the content or aims of the review, even though it has been ongoing for several months.
 
May said in a letter to a lawmaker in August that any decisions resulting from the review would be subject to public comments.
 
Earlier this week SFO chief David Green said he was "entirely relaxed" about the future of the agency, in what was interpreted as a broad hint that he believes it will escape a merger.

All of the agencies involved declined to comment.

	Eliot Gao