Money laundering crimes "slipping through the net" because of cuts

Catherine Neilan
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Barbican Laundrette
London: Laundromat to the world (Source: Getty)

Money laundering crimes could be "slipping through the net" because of cuts to the budget at the City of London Police, an accountancy firm has claimed.

Over the last five years just 104 investigations have been opened, according to the City of London Police annual report. At the same time, the district's police budget has been cut by 15 per cent to £121.6m.

And yet the number of cases is on the rise, from 15 investigated in 2014 to 23 in 2015, the last year for which there is available data.

Read more: City minister: Money laundering too big an issue for one country alone

London has developed something of a reputation as being the money laundering capital of the world.

Last year the Home Affairs Select Committee concluded the London property market was the main route through which £100bn was laundered each year, while a recent investigation by the Latvian and Moldavian authorities also put the capital's real estate market at the heart of a $20bn global laundering operation, dubbed the Laundromat.

Accountancy firm Moore Stephens argues the relatively low number of investigations in London suggests cases are going undetected because of the police's lack of resources.

John Baker, anti-fraud director at Moore Stephens said: “It is concerning that the number of investigations into money laundering is so low. The City of London Police is one of the only forces in the UK to have fraud in their top 10 priorities, and it is imperative that they get proper funding for that task.

Read more: UK banks embroiled in Russian money laundering scandal

“The City of London Police lacks the necessary time and resources to investigate every report of fraud or money laundering made to them. Businesses or individuals that have lost money from fraud often choose to pursue fraudsters privately through law firms, or accountancy firms such as ourselves, rather than relying on overstretched police forces.”

The City of London Police’s Temporary Commander Dave Clark said: “The City of London Police has a money laundering unit that progresses its own cases with continued successes, but operates in partnership with a number of other agencies across Law Enforcement both within the UK and overseas, to tackle money laundering, where the case is led by those other agencies. By way of example, other partner agencies include SFO, NCA, FCA CMA and HMRC.

“We gave evidence to Parliament which has helped form the Criminal Finances Act, which recently obtained Royal Assent. When this legislation is implemented, we will have more powers at our disposal to prevent, detect and deter money laundering, not only here in the UK but internationally as well.”

The government recently announced a new anti-money laundering watchdog, which will sit within the FCA.

The Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) is expected to simplify the current anti-money laundering rules and introduce stricter regulations.

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