Money laundering supervision: report suspicious activities

Businesses regulated by the Money Laundering Regulations must report activity that may be linked to money laundering or terrorist financing.


If your business is regulated by the Money Laundering Regulations you must try to identify any activity linked to money laundering or terrorist financing, for all parts of your business.

If you know about or suspect money laundering or terrorist financing you must consider telling the National Crime Agency (NCA) by sending a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR).

You also must consider whether you need NCA consent before you proceed with a suspicious transaction. The NCA will tell you if a defence against money laundering charges is granted to you.

Meaning of a suspicious activity or transaction

There are many reasons why you or one of your employees might become suspicious about a transaction or activity. Often it’s just because it’s something unusual for your business - perhaps a customer has tried to make an exceptionally large cash payment. Maybe the customer behaved strangely, or made unusual requests that didn’t seem to make sense. Perhaps the transaction they wanted to make just didn’t add up commercially.

You must look carefully at all unusual transactions to see if there’s anything suspicious about them.

More guidance on the main indicators of suspicious transactions can be found in HM Revenue and Customs’ guidance for:

When to report suspicious activity

Anyone in your business must report any suspicious transaction or activity they become aware of to the nominated officer. It’s the nominated officer’s responsibility to decide whether they need to send a report or ‘disclosure’ about the incident to the NCA. They do this by making a SAR.

The nominated officer must normally suspend the transaction if they suspect money laundering or terrorist financing. If it’s not practical - or not safe - to suspend the transaction, they should make the report as soon as possible after the transaction is completed.

The NCA receives and analyses SARs and uses them to identify the proceeds of crime. It counters money laundering and terrorism by passing on important information to law enforcement agencies so they can take action.

How to submit a Suspicious Activity Report

Your nominated officer can send a SAR to the NCA. It’s easiest to send the report online.

The NCA website explains how to send a report.

If you need help with a report you can contact the NCA.

The NCA will usually reply to your report within 7 working days.

You must consider whether you need a defence against money laundering charges from the NCA before you can proceed with a suspicious transaction or activity.

You’ll find out if the NCA have granted a defence when they reply to your SAR.

If you don’t get a reply from the NCA within 7 working days and think you’ve correctly reported the activity, you can choose to assume a defence is granted.

If you get a reply that says you don’t have permission to proceed, the NCA have a further 31 calendar days to take action.

If you’ve not heard from the NCA after the 31 days, you can proceed if you want to. You won’t be committing an offence.

The 31 day period does not apply to terrorist financing cases, you won’t have a defence until your request is granted by the NCA.

Published 23 October 2014
Last updated 26 June 2017 + show all updates
  1. This guide has been updated to reflect changes to legislation from 26 June 2017, including how to send a Suspicious Activity Report to the National Crime Agency and proceed with a suspicious activity or transaction.
  2. First published.