'Terrorists and criminals' abound in UK plc

You've probably heard it said that business is full of crooks. Now someone claims to have proved it...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

According to data specialists World-Check and Datanomic, there are nearly 4,000 directors registered at UK Companies House who are ‘high-risk individuals’ – including terror suspects, forgers, convicted fraudsters, drug smugglers and even war criminals.

The two firms checked almost 7m businesses listed at Companies House against World-Check’s database of 750,000 international ne’er-do-wells, and discovered that a ‘staggering’ 3,994 of these reprobates were registered as directors of UK companies. This included more than 1,500 people who have supposedly been disqualified as directors – despite the fact that some of them are actually in prison, and the rest have their names on a register specifically to prevent this happening.

The rogues’ gallery includes one person who supposedly represents an Islamic terrorist group in the UK, another who’s being hounded by Interpol on Russian fraud charges, another who’s been accused of a $34m fraud, and another who’s facing UN war crimes charges. Now we’re no experts on background checking, but we can’t help feeling that some people haven’t been doing their homework properly…

As Datanomic CEO Dr Jonathan Pell says: ‘Screening your customer base against sanctions lists for known criminals, terrorists and PEPs should be part of responsible business practice.’ Possibly one of the less controversial statements we’ve ever read on a press release…

We were particularly intrigued by these PEPs, which apparently stands for Politically Exposed Persons. Not in the John Major/ Edwina Currie sense, you understand – this is referring to people whose public position makes them vulnerable to corruption. According to the report, the country with the most PEPs running UK companies is (you guessed it) Russia – which is not exactly the kind of stat that will help thaw the frosty diplomatic relations between our two nations.

So whose fault is all this, exactly? According to the authors, the problem is that Companies House is not required to actively screen applicants – and as an executive agency of the government, it should be. However, although this would obviously be good news for any companies who sell access to databases of high-risk individuals (for example), there’s no guarantee it would work. After all, regulated companies are already required by law to do this – and it doesn’t seem to be doing much good.

Still, there’s some good news for the government – at least it hasn’t lost all this data…

Click here to read MT’s big piece on white-collar crime, from April last year.

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