A report published today by Spotlight on Corruption, states that the UK is currently losing the fight against economic crime. UK law enforcement capacity is under-resourced, over-stretched, and out-gunned.
Whilst economic crime costs the equivalent 14.5% of the UK's two trillion annual GDP, just 0.042% of GDP is spent on funding core economic crime enforcement agencies. New investment announced in the last Autumn budget for economic crime represents 1% of the £4.2 billion increase allocated for the Home Office.
What the report describes as a critical situation is being worsened by the fraud epidemic arising out of the COVID pandemic.
In addition, a number of investigations arising from data leaks, ranging from the Panama Papers in 2017, to the FinCen files in 2020 and the Pandora Papers in 2021, have shown that the UK’s financial and property sectors continue to be major magnets for money laundering, with UK-registered companies a vehicle of choice for money launderers around the world. Despite this, the number of investigations and prosecutions for money laundering has dropped over the past five years.
The solution is not only increasing public investment but reinvesting funds from fines, forfeiture and confiscation orders. The report describes the current mechanism for reinvesting assets into law enforcement as broken and recommends a central "economic crime fighting fund".
Other recommendations are to improve recruitment and retention of law enforcement staff and to enhance transparency and accountability in enforcement and resourcing.
It will be interesting to see if the government adopts any, or all, of the report's recommendations and steps up to genuinely be a leader in the global response to economic crime.
..existing government proposals for funding law enforcement are not sufficient to drive the transformational change needed to keep pace with what the government recognises as a severe and growing threat. If the UK is to tackle economic crime effectively, far greater ambition about the scale of public investment needed is required.