The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has just published its 2015 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) Annual Report and the figure that immediately catches the eye is that the SARs total continued its upward trend, rising by 7.8% to 381,882.
Just for comparison, from October 2010 to September 2011 the figure was 247,601, so that’s a pretty steep increase pretty quickly, though as the NCA says: ‘Given the status of the UK as one of the world’s largest financial centres, it is perhaps unsurprising that the volume of SARs submitted continues to rise annually’.
What else stands out? Well, given the recent focus on the link between property deals, particularly in London, and money laundering, a whopping 98% year-on-year increase in the number of SARs from estate agents is also unsurprising. To put a slightly different perspective on it though, there were still only 355 in total; interestingly, only a fifth related to property in London.
Other big hikes in reporting came from gaming, including casinos, and leisure (52%), building societies (23 per cent) and other credit institutions, such as finance companies and credit card providers (17%). Banks remained the runaway leader in the SARs league table, providing 83% of all reports (up by 9.4%).
Sectors where suspicious activity reports fell between October 2014–September 2015 on the previous 12 months were high value dealers (59%), trust/company service providers (43%) and money service businesses (26%).
The report highlights a number of high-value cases in which SARs have played a key part in law enforcement achieving a successful outcome, ranging from a ‘multi-faceted’ investigation involving money laundering, fraud, false accounting and forgery and resulting in a £1 million recovery order, to inquiries into human trafficking and an organised crime group supplying drugs.
Money laundering and terrorist financing tend to grab the headlines when it comes to SARs but reports are also valuable in protecting vulnerable people. In the period covered by the report, 915 such cases were fast-tracked to police. One victim of a dating scam was saved from releasing around £100,000 equity in their house while a number of offenders pleaded guilty following a scam involving total losses of more than £1 million in just one police force area, in which victims were tricked into switching savings into ‘safe’ accounts after phone calls from bogus bank or police officers.
While the report inevitably looks back, the NCA is clearly looking forward, with director Donald Toon underlining the need for the SARs regime to evolve in response to factors including the Fourth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive. With crime now ‘a global business’, he says: ‘We have started what is likely to be a sustained and potentially radical period of change in the operation of the regime’.
The ICA offers a wide range of qualifications addressing financial crime prevention, including the ICA Certificate in Financial Crime Prevention, the ICA Diploma in Financial Crime Prevention and the ICA Professional Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Crime Compliance.
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