Press release 25th Jan 2022

Time running out to deliver on long-overdue economic crime reforms

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January 25, 2022 - Shelving measures to strengthen Britain’s defences against economic crime would represent a major misstep in the fight against fraud and money laundering, Transparency International UK warned today.

Plans are in the works for an Economic Crime Bill to help address the UK’s role as a global hub for dirty money. It would include long-overdue measures to unmask the true owners of offshore companies that own property here, as well as powers for Companies House to crack down on the abuse of UK firms.

But writing in the FT, Lord Agnew, who yesterday resigned over the government’s handling of Covid loans fraud, said ministers had ‘foolishly rejected’ the bill for the next legislative session. 

 

Duncan Hames, Director of Policy at Transparency International UK, said:

“To lose in Lord Agnew, a counter-fraud minister, may be a misfortune; to also lose your legislation to fight economic crime would look like carelessness. Ministers need to get their priorities right and put fighting economic crime firmly back on their parliamentary agenda before it is too late.”

 

Just last month, the Prime Minister announced to world leaders at the US Summit for Democracy that this year Britain would deliver more transparency over the ownership of UK property and strengthen powers to stop the abuse of UK companies.

Failing to even put forward an Economic Crime Bill would seriously jeopardise his ability to deliver on a ‘year of action’ in the fight against corruption.

 

An Economic Crime Bill should be included in the next Queen’s Speech which:

  • Creates a register of overseas entities that own UK property;
  • Reforms Companies House to ensure it can monitor, verify, and investigate suspicious companies;
  • Consolidates the UK’s fragmented and ineffective anti-money laundering supervisory regime; and
  • Reforms corporate criminal liability laws to ensure enablers can be held to account.