Britain is awash with 'dirty cash'

A report by Transparency International claims anti-laundering controls aren't fit-for-purpose.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 23 Nov 2015

Billions of pounds worth of ‘dirty cash’ is flowing into the UK every year and efforts to stop it are not up-to-scratch, according to a new report published today. Transparency International (TI) says the UK’s ‘woefully inadequate and structurally unsound' anti-money laundering (AML) system is in need of a ‘radical overhaul’ if things are to improve.

The pressure group trained its fire on the ‘mish-mash’ of 22 institutions that share responsibility for overseeing AML efforts in key sectors like accountancy, law and property. Most of these are 'performing very badly in terms of identifying and reporting money laundering,’ it said.

One third of banks has dismissed serious money laundering concerns ‘without adequate review’ and estate agents deemed ‘only 179’ cases to be suspicious last year. When launderers do get caught, the sanctions dished out are ‘ineffective’, it added.

‘Corrupt individuals are still finding the UK to be a safe haven for their ill-gotten gains and the vast majority of institutions that are meant to prevent that from happening are not up to the job,’ said Rachel Davies, TI-UK’s senior advocacy manager.

‘The average house price in central London is more than the total amount of fines dished out to those who laundered money through property last year. If the UK wants to permanently shut the door on dirty money, there must be a serious change in this flawed system.’

TI’s proposed solution is to take responsibility for taking on money laundering away from the existing bodies (many of which are in the private sector) and into the hands of one new ‘super-supervisor’.

Many of the existing supervisors are also lobby groups for their members, which TI says creates a conflict of interest. So handing over the power to one body whose sole focus is on rooting out dirty cash would make a lot of sense. Unless of course that body also underperforms, in which case we might need to call in a super-super-supervisor.

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