The UK's financial crime authorities have been described as "overstretched and outgunned" by criminals, according to a British anti-corruption charity.
In its most recent report, Spotlight on Corruption, the UK government revealed that it spends £852 million per year fighting financial crime. The sum is insignificant in comparison to the estimated £100 billion in money laundering proceeds that pass through the UK each year.
Spotlight's Executive Director, Susan Hawley, stated that the organization is asking for the “UK government to create a central economic crime fighting fund by reinvesting some of the revenue law enforcement agencies generate back into their work.”
"With law enforcement so under-resourced and the costs of economic crime so high," Hawley told the Financial Times, "this should be a no-brainer."
The UK is "widely perceived to be losing the fight against economic crime" according to Spotlight, which also warns that "suspicions that enforcement outcomes are weak across the board are correct."
According to the report, UK money laundering prosecutions have decreased by 35% in the last five years, with the National Crime Agency obtaining less than five economic crime prosecutions per year in the last years.
Similarly, the number of people convicted by the Serious Fraud Office each year has decreased from 13 to 4 in the last five years, according to Spotlight.
According to Spotlight, "current levels of public investment in economic crime are not sufficient to drive transformational change to improve enforcement outcomes."
Despite the fact that economic crime costs 14.5 percent of GDP, the charity estimates that the UK spends just 0.042 percent of GDP on funding "core national-level economic crime enforcement bodies," with an increase of £42 million in the economic crime budget representing only 1% of the increase allocated for the UK's Home Office.
"Key national-level agencies continue to suffer real term declines in their budgets," Spotlight reported, revealing that the NCA's core budget has been cut by 4.2 percent over the last five years.
According to the report, the current system for "returning assets to law enforcement "is "broken." Over the last five years, the amount of money returned and used by asset recovery has decreased by 34%.
The charity is now advocating for the creation of a "central economic crime fighting fund," which would reinvest money generated by economic crime enforcement into law enforcement agencies on top of core budgets.
The UK's Home Office said in a statement to the Financial Times that the country is a "world leader" in combating money laundering. The UK "will not tolerate criminals profiting on dirty money and the government will do whatever is necessary to bring these criminals to justice," according to the statement.
By fLEXI tEAM