January 14, 2019 / 12:30 AM / 4 months ago

Britain launches task force to tackle dirty money

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Finance Minister Philip Hammond delivers a speech on Brexit at HSBC's headquarters in Canary Wharf in London, Britain, March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will work with the financial industry to crack down on fraud, corruption and dirty money by launching a task force that will include senior banking figures, the finance ministry said on Monday.

The chief executives of Santander, Lloyds and Barclays banks will be among members of the Economic Crime Strategic Board, which will consider where further resources are needed to tackle offences such as bribery and money laundering.

“We need to take action on all fronts to target the corrupt fraudsters who are lining their pockets with dirty money and living luxury lifestyles at the expense of law-abiding citizens,” said interior minister Sajid Javid, who will jointly chair the task force with finance minister Philip Hammond.

An estimated 14.4 billion pounds ($18.50 billion) worth of economic crime is committed every year, a Treasury statement said.

Britain has already introduced Unexplained Wealth Orders to combat the proceeds of suspected corruption by freezing and seizing them.

The first target of these powers was made public last year when they were used against the wife of a jailed Azeri banker who spent more than 16 million pounds ($20.5 million) at London’s luxury department store Harrods.

The National Crime Agency received a record number of suspicious activity reports (SARs) in 2017-2018, registering a 10 percent increase on the previous year.

Officials say they are focused on cracking down in particular on money from Russia, Nigeria, former Soviet states and Asia.

“The UK is leading the world in the fight against illicit finance,” Hammond said. “We know more can be done.”

Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Helen Popper

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