The Home Office has just published its first annual report on its anti-corruption strategy.
Somewhat bizarrely the Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime, Ben Wallace MP, who opens the report references the popular television series McMafia as an example of the government’s determination to tackle the threats of corruption and economic crime but – fictional dramas aside – what is there to learn from the first report?
The Prime Minister’s Anticorruption Champion, John Penrose MP, explains the policy as follows:
“The anti-corruption strategy boils down to 134 actions, over 5 years. I am particularly pleased that this report includes details of our progress – good or bad – on each one. Transparency is a vital weapon in the anticorruption fight, so we have to keep walking the talk ourselves.”(sic)
Of those 134 actions (also known as commitments elsewhere in the report) the Home Office states that 30 were due for completion before the end of 2018. Two have not been completed but 28 have been completed in full or in part. The Home Office states that they are, “on track to deliver” on the remaining commitments.
So what are these 28 successfully completed actions?
When one digs into the vast majority are fairly opaque.
One example is, “Increase transparency and improve accountability in policing.” This is supposedly complete but there is no clear explanation what this means.
Anotheris, “Introduce a new Ministerial Economic Crime Strategic Board, chaired by the Home Secretary, to oversee strategic priorities, overall performance and align funding and capability development on economic crime.” According to the report the Ministerial Economic Crime Strategic Board is due to meet early in 2019.
The centerpiece of the Home Office’s achievements in 2018 is undoubtedly the introduction of the Unexplained Wealth Orders.
There have only been three orders issued thus far, only two of which remain active. Gherson is instructed in both cases and remains at the forefront of this emerging new area of law.
Having waded through this 47-page report one can’t help feel that there is a focus on strategies and policy as opposed to concrete actions. Nevertheless, it is abundantly clear that the Home Office intends to continue with its supposed assault on money laundering. It remains to be seen who the next target of an unexplained wealth order will be but there have been reports of at least 100 further orders in the pipeline.
Gherson remains skeptical about the efficacy (and indeed the appropriateness) of these orders but having dealt with the first two orders we are more than happy to discuss their operation with anyone who has concerns.
Nobody would doubt the importance of tackling money laundering. But one has to raise an eyebrow when Ministers are referencing a television programme as an example of their increased focus on the issue.
Furthermore, the government must also consider the potential economic impact of such intrusive measures. An important component of the economy and property market in London has been the influx of foreign money to the capital. The authorities must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
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