On October 13, UK government introduced the Criminal Finances BIll. The bill was introduced in an effort to counter money laundering and corruption. London has been known to be a haven for dirty money. Government officials claimed the new powers granted by the legislation will change criminal activity in the UK.
Security Minister Ben Wallace said: “The UK is one of the best places in the world to do business but it will only stay that way if we take steps to protect the integrity of our financial system and the security of our citizens.”
Under the Criminal Finances Bill, law enforcement will be capable of issuing unexplained wealth orders to suspected criminals to prove the source of their wealth, the UK government said. Under the so-called “unexplained wealth orders,” those unable to explain the source of their wealth would risk having their assets seized.
Assets suspected of being proceeds of crime could also be seized by the government. This would include money, jewelry, and artwork. These assets could not previously have been seized.
The development of these powers will grant officers to quickly seize or forfeit criminal and terrorist funds in bank accounts. This action will require reasonable suspicion that the property is “the proceeds of a crime” or “intended for illegal activity.”
“The new bill means that hundreds of London properties could be seized by officials,” DW wrote.
During the announcement, Wallace said: “We will not stand by and watch criminals use the UK to launder their dirty money or fund terrorism.” He continued: “This legislation will ensure the UK is taking a world-leading role in cracking down on corruption and send a clear message to criminals – we will take your liberty and your money.”
An official risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing found the UK’s response to the such crimes has “been weak for an extended period of time”. Research published by Transparency International in 2015 found data that backed up the official risk assessment. More than 36,000 London properties were owned by unknown companies with unknown or unverified sources of wealth. Corrupt politicians and tax evaders were highlighted as prime suspects.
The head of T.I., Rachel Davis, told a newspaper in May: “The UK has been a prime location for stashing away illicitly gained wealth, as anti-money laundering systems are weak and sectors such as UK property represent a safe investment, as well as a place to hide corrupt money.”
An action plan, published after the risk assessment, outlined the steps to improve the UK’s ability to properly react. The action plan contained measures outlined in the Criminal Finances Bill.
Anthony Browne, Chief Executive of the British Bankers’ Association, said:
Criminals exploit financial transactions to serve their wicked ends. In an ever growing digital world they continually try to find new ways in which money can enter and leave the economy looking legitimate. Reforms are needed to protect individual victims and the economy. The Criminal Finances Bill provides an opportunity for the public and private sectors to get ahead of the criminals and clamp down further on money laundering and corruption.
As with any bill, The Criminal Finances Bill still requires parliamentary approval before becoming a reality.