Could a no deal Brexit result in money launderers targeting the UK?
Martin Cheek (pictured) is managing director of SmartSearch
Not only is money laundering a crime in itself, but it is an enabler for more serious crime.
The National Risk Assessment (NRA) says there is ‘a marked overlap’ between money laundering and terrorist financing while the NCA estimates that most of the proceeds of serious and organised crime – around £24bn a year – is laundered through UK banks and businesses.
And a no deal Brexit could exacerbate the problem.
Criminals are constantly looking for structural weaknesses and loopholes to exploit in order to fund their criminal activities and there have been warnings that leaving the EU could make the UK more vulnerable.
EU regulations on money laundering are stringent, and constantly evolving to keep up with the ever-sophisticated methods used by criminals.
We are currently members of Europol, which is the law enforcement agency of the EU, whose responsibilities include tackling serious and organised crime with much of its efforts going into anti-money laundering.
Europol runs Europol Information System (EIS) which collates all the information from all EU states so that all members have access to serious crimes across the EU allowing states to work together to bring criminals to justice.
This ability to share information is a huge weapon in the fight against money laundering, but there are now fears that by separating ourselves from the rest of Europe, we may inadvertently undo some of the hard work of the past decade and weaken our defences against money launderers.
Following Brexit, we may no longer enjoy membership of Europol or access to the EIS which could make the UK very vulnerable in terms of being targeted by money launderers.
Without access to this database, it could be more difficult for the UK’s law enforcement to follow money launderer’s activities outside of the UK.
It is therefore vitally important that the UK ensures its money laundering regulations standards meet those set by other global powers by either continuing to adopt the EU regulations or align the UK’s regulations with that of the EU.
But we do have one advantage; the UK is currently leading Europe in terms of Regtech, so is also vital that we make use of the excellent technology we have available in this country to continue to fight money launderers.