Anti-money laundering specialist welcomes Chatham House report highlighting UK weaknesses in tackling organised crime

The latest report from the Chatham House think tank highlighting the need for the UK government to address systemic weaknesses in tackling organised crime has been welcomed by an anti-money laundering specialist.

Martin Cheek, managing director of SmartSearch, said: “This report lays bare the way in which the UK has become a global money-laundering magnet as a result of failing to take decisive action against organised criminals.

“It is welcome to see the report’s conclusion that new laws are needed to tackle systemic failures and its observation about the inadequacy of key anti-corruption pillars, in particular the requirement for regulated industries to file suspicious activity reports flagging potential corruption to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

“The publication of the Chatham House report comes in the wake of recent revelations about hidden wealth, tax avoidance and money laundering in the Pandora Papers – notably the fact that more than 1,500 UK properties have been bought using offshore firms.

“All of this serves to underline the need for any legislative changes to be supported by effective use of digital technology. While changes to the existing anti-corruption laws are undoubtedly needed, the fact is that criminals are less likely to be identified and brought to justice using old-fashioned paper-based checks.

“We are living in a digital age, so use of electronic verification should be a mandatory requirement in transactions such as property purchases. This would mean that individuals could be thoroughly screened by use of credit checking and screening against global sanctions lists, to see if they or anyone close to them has been flagged for involvement in illicit activities.”