Cyber crime and the closely linked financial fraud crime rose by more than a third between 2012 -2017, according to Action Fraud, the national fraud and cyber crime reporting centre which is monitored and overseen by the City of London police. During the same period of time, according the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank, overall police budgets fell by 14% and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) funding was reduced by 25%. The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have their hands full with the complex financial crime. The under-funded CPS and police are left to handle the lower level fraud. It may be presumed that the reducing budgets have led to reduced prosecutions; it may further be presumed that the Action Fraud figures are not a true reflection of the level of fraud as the National Crime Agency (NCA) estimates that less than 20% of fraud incidents are reported to the police.
The City of London is about to get some assistance to counter its mounting reputation as a safe haven for illegal money. The NCA has a new division, the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), which will be operational from 31 October. The NECC was announced in December last year as part of the government's anti-corruption strategy. NCA is aiming to halt the £90 billion flow of criminal money that sweeps through the UK annually. The 55 strong team in the NECC comes mostly from existing agencies such as the NCA, the SFO, the FCA and Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, as well as the City of London Police and other police forces throughout the country.
The deputy director of the NCA, Nigel Kirby, when addressing the Cambridge Economic Crime Symposium, stated that it was his intention to include knowledgeable experts from the private sector, such as trade bodies and accountants, in the new division, who are well placed to identify patterns of behaviour which point to illegal activities such as money laundering. Mr. Kirby commented: "there is a lot of brainpower out there I want to harness." NECC will take as its model the joint money laundering intelligence task force involving a core group of bankers, set up in 2016 to identify and understand how the UK's financial system is used by criminals, corrupt foreign officials and terrorists to launder, conceal and otherwise manipulate their wealth illegally. Lisa Osofsky, a former US prosecutor and now head of the SFO, supported the idea of collaboration with other organisations in the UK and around the world in an effort to make Britain "an inhospitable place for criminals to do business", in her first speech as head of the SFO.
The newly created NECC will need every penny of its £6 million budget to achieve its stated objectives in the face of the growing menace of cyber and financial fraud.
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