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FCA, ministers and HMRC grilled over UK money laundering weakness

  • 23/09/2020
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FCA, ministers and HMRC grilled over UK money laundering weakness
Mel Stride MP, chair of the Treasury Select Committee, has questioned HMRC, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and government ministers over claims that the UK is a money laundering hotspot.


The claims were revealed in leaked documents earlier this week known as the FinCEN files.

The FinCEN files are 2,657 documents, mostly Serious Activity Reports (SARs), which are filed by banks to the US authorities when they suspect suspicious behaviour by their clients and the transaction took place in US dollars.

In the leaked files, the intelligence division of FinCEN called the UK a “higher risk jurisdiction”, and compared the country to Cyprus because of the number of UK registered companies that appear in SARs, according to the BBC.

The UK has the highest number of companies named in the papers, more than 3,000.

A number of UK banks were named in conjunction with suspicious behaviour in the leaked SAR reports, although this is not evidence of wrong doing.

Stride has demanded answers from the UK bodies tasked with protecting the country’s financial system from economic crime on what more needs to be done to prevent money laundering within the UK’s banks.

UK law enforcement agencies have been asked to respond to the findings in the FinCEN papers and HMRC has been questioned over whether it considers itself to be an effective money laundering supervisor for those firms that fall under its control.

In a letter to Christopher Woolard, interim chief executive of the FCA, Stride asked: “The recent release of the FinCen papers to the media has once again placed a spotlight on the UK’s approach to combatting economic crime.

“This was the focus of a previous Treasury Committee inquiry, which led to the publication of a report entitled Economic Crime – Anti-money laundering supervision and sanctions implementation in March 2019.

“The FCA has a core role in combatting financial crime, both as the conduct regulator, but also as the home to the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS).”

He went on to ask Woolard if the reference to the UK as a “higher-risk jurisdiction” concerned him, and if he had heard similar comments from US authorities.


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