Wyre & Preston North MP Ben Wallace who is also the Minister of State for Security, has spoken about the Criminal Finance Bill which the Government introduced to the Commons on the 13th of October.
Mr Wallace said, “For too long, the proceeds of organised crime and overseas corruption have been able to move through the UK with considerable impunity. The UK drug trade alone is estimated to generate £4bn of revenue and it is estimated that the annual amount of money laundered globally amounts to $1.6 trillion. Many of the criminals who profit from such activities live in ‘plain sight’, confident of being untouchable by law enforcement agencies.”
The main measures contained in the Bill are:
1. Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO), the Bill will enable a court to make a UWO to require an individual or organisation suspected of direct involvement in or association with serious criminality to explain the origin of assets, which appear disproportionate to their known income.
2. Improved seizure and forfeiture powers, the Bill will extend existing powers so that law enforcement agencies can take swift and effective action where criminals have stored the proceeds of crime in bank accounts or other means, such as betting tickets, precious metals and jewels.
3. Corporate failure to prevent tax evasion. This will deliver on the Conservative manifesto commitment to “make it a crime if companies fail to put in place measures to stop economic crime such as tax evasion.”
Other measures in the Bill include enhancing the process by which private sector companies report suspected money laundering to the National Crime Agency (NCA) – the Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) regime. This will give the NCA more time to investigate those suspicious transactions which require their ‘consent’, and extra powers to request further information from companies to help pursue those investigations. The Bill will also provide a legal gateway for the sharing of information between affected sections of the private sector – subject to appropriate oversight – helping them to build a broader intelligence picture of suspected money laundering.
Mr Wallace Continued,” I am proud that, in comparison to most European countries, we are positioned high in the league table for having a strong and independent judiciary, as well as a determined law enforcement environment. If we are to maintain our record and our position, then we need to always stay one step ahead of those that seek to undermine our attempts. We must pursue vigorously all those who abuse our financial system for criminal means – I believe this Bill will play a crucial part in tackling the threats of organised crime and terrorism.”