Law enforcement agencies will be given new powers to seize the proceeds of crime and demand criminals explain the origins of their wealth under new legislation published today (13 October 2016).
The Criminal Finances Bill will also strengthen the partnership between the public and private sectors, boosting the fight against illegal activity.
Among the measures being introduced are unexplained wealth orders, which will force those suspected of serious crime to explain where their wealth has come from, or risk having it seized.
These orders will improve the recovery of illicit funds and prevent the UK being used as a safe haven for the proceeds of international corruption.
And criminals will no longer be able to keep their ill-gotten gains out of the reach of law enforcement by hiding them in assets which officers currently cannot seize.
Now officers will be able to seize a range of items including precious metals and stones and even works of art. Officers will also be able to take swift and effective action to forfeit criminal or terrorist funds held in bank accounts.
Security Minister Ben Wallace said:
The UK is one of the best places in the world to do business but it will only stay that way if we take steps to protect the integrity of our financial system and the security of our citizens.
We will not stand by and watch criminals use the UK to launder their dirty money or fund terrorism.
This legislation will ensure the UK is taking a world-leading role in cracking down on corruption and send a clear message to criminals – we will take your liberty and your money.
Anthony Browne, British Bankers’ Association CEO, said:
Criminals exploit financial transactions to serve their wicked ends. In an ever growing digital world they continually try to find new ways in which money can enter and leave the economy looking legitimate.
Reforms are needed to protect individual victims and the economy. The Criminal Finances Bill provides an opportunity for the public and private sectors to get ahead of the criminals and clamp down further on money laundering and corruption.
Key measures within the legislation include:
- Unexplained wealth orders, which will require an individual suspected of serious criminality to explain the origins of their wealth or face civil recovery action. Law enforcement agencies will apply to the High Court for permission to put an order in place.
- The creation of seizure and forfeiture powers, enabling the forfeiture of money stored in bank accounts as well as precious metals and stones and a range of other items. There must be reasonable suspicion that the property is either the proceeds of crime, or that it is intended for use in unlawful conduct.
- A provision to allow the sharing of information, such as data on financial transactions, between regulated bodies, improving the use of public and private sector resources in combating money laundering.
- The introduction of a new criminal offence for companies who fail to prevent tax evasion, sending out a clear message that anyone doing business in and with the UK must have the highest possible compliance standards.
- The extension of disclosure orders to money laundering and terrorist financing cases, requiring someone suspected of having information or documents relevant to an investigation to provide it.
- Enhancement of the suspicious activity reports regime, providing additional powers to the National Crime Agency and extending the amount of time senior officers, primarily from law enforcement agencies, have to investigate transactions.
- Bolstering the law enforcement agency response to the threats from terrorist financing, helping to combat the raising or movement of terrorist funds and strengthening partnerships with the regulated sector.