News story

Biggest reforms to money laundering regime in over a decade

The Home Secretary has set out the most significant changes to the UK’s anti-money laundering and terrorist finance regime in over a decade.


The government’s action plan for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist finance will deliver on the aim, set out in the strategic defence and security review, to make the UK a more hostile place for those seeking to move, hide or use the proceeds of crime or corruption.

It comes 3 weeks ahead of the Prime Minister’s global anti-corruption summit and demonstrates the UK’s commitment to tackling the issue both domestically and internationally.

The action plan sets out 3 priorities:

  • an enhanced law enforcement response to the threats we face - that means building new capabilities in our law enforcement agencies and creating tough new legal powers to enable the relentless disruption of criminals and terrorists
  • reform of the supervisory regime to ensure that it is consistent, effective and brings those few companies who facilitate or enable money laundering to task
  • increase the international reach of law enforcement agencies and international information sharing to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing threats

As part of the action plan, the government will be seeking the views of law enforcement, professional services firms, NGOs and big businesses as part of a 6 week consultation on a raft of measures, including:

  • fundamental reform of the suspicious activity reports regime, under which people in the regulated sector must report suspicions of money laundering to the National Crime Agency (NCA) - the regime will be refocused to encourage better use of public and private sector resources against the highest threats and provide the NCA with a new suite of powers
  • the creation of new powers, including unexplained wealth orders (UWO), requiring those suspected of money laundering to declare their wealth
  • the provision of a linked forfeiture power for use where the answers provided are unsatisfactory, or where the subject of a UWO fails to respond
  • the creation of an illicit enrichment offence, for use when a public official has a significant and inexplicable increase in their assets
  • new administrative power to designate an entity as being of money laundering concern and require the regulated sector to take special measures when dealing with them

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

Britain’s world leading financial system is at risk of being undermined by money laundering, illicit finance and the funding of terrorism. The laundering of proceeds of crime through UK institutions is not only a financial crime, it fuels political instability around the world, supports terrorists and extremism and poses a direct and immediate threat to our domestic security and our overseas interests.

This action plan sends a clear message that we will not tolerate this type of activity in our financial institutions. We will forge a new partnership with industry to improve suspicious activity reporting, deliver deeper information-sharing and take joint action on enforcement. And we will act vigorously against the criminals and terrorists responsible, to protect the security and prosperity of our citizens, and safeguard the integrity of Britain’s financial economy.

Published 21 April 2016