UK: NCA's Post-Brexit Claims Dismissed By Senior Rahman Ravelli Solicitor

Last Updated: 12 June 2018
Article by Ben Ticehurst

Forecasts of increased fraud, corruption and money laundering branded political and insulting

Ben Ticehurst, Senior Lawyer at Rahman Ravelli has angrily challenged the National Crime Agency's assumption that British businesses are at risk of being drawn into corrupt practices after the UK leaves the European Union.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned of a Brexit-driven surge in crime, with UK-based companies facing risks in corrupt markets as they look to trade with countries outside of the EU. According to the NCA, Brexit will also provide attractive opportunities for criminals to launder money through British businesses.

But the claims have been denounced as political and insulting to British companies by Mr. Ticehurst, a senior Lawyer at the firm.

He believes that business has, on the whole, implemented procedures following the introduction of the UK Bribery Act that demonstrate that UK companies wish to carry out business legally and ethically.


Mr Ticehurst believes that the comments from the NCA appear to be politically motivated, rather than an actual analysis of the situation.

He said: "Whether trading before or after the full impact of Brexit is felt, British companies have to take proper steps to prevent themselves becoming involved in corruption. Bribery has been – and probably always will be – a major issue for business. And this has been recognised by the UK's law makers.

"The UK's Bribery Act, which came into effect seven years ago, makes it possible to prosecute any company with a UK connection for bribery committed anywhere in the world. As a piece of legislation, this was a clear recognition of the problem of bribery worldwide and was introduced many years before Brexit was a reality.

"Yes, companies may look to new markets. And yes, some of those new markets may carry the risk of corruption. But that risk has always been there. It does not become worse because of Brexit. And it would be equally wrong to make the claim that all countries in the EU are somehow completely free from any hint of bribery and corruption.

"The NCA may feel that it has to make concerned noises about the impact of Brexit. But in doing so it is painting an inaccurate picture. Companies should already be aware of the risks of corruption wherever they trade – and should have measures in place to ensure they do not fall foul of it.''


Mr Ticehurst also took issue with the argument that a post-Brexit Britain would be attractive to money launderers.

He added: "The issue of money laundering has been working its way higher and higher up the authorities' agenda in recent years. To suggest that leaving the EU would create some sort of free-for-all for money launderers is both inaccurate and alarmist.

"If we are talking about the scale of money laundering in the UK, we have to be honest and state that it is already a problem. It is a problem that has prompted the UK government to introduce measures over the past decade and a half to try and tackle it.

"From the Proceeds of Crime Act of 2002 – which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years' imprisonment for money laundering – through to last year's National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (which highlighted the problems money laundering can pose for anyone from accountants to gambling facility operators), there has been an official recognition of the problem.

"Such recognition may not have prevented money laundering becoming a problem. And that has arguably been recognised by the EU's own Money Laundering Directives, which place certain responsibilities on member states.

"But any argument that leaving the EU means a collapse of all efforts to prevent money laundering is misguided, if not misleading.''


The NCA's annual assessment of serious and organised crime states that criminals could also benefit from post-Brexit altered customs arrangements and a lack of coordinated intelligence sharing between countries. As a result, the Agency argues, it will be easier for criminals to both perpetrate fraud and evade capture.

Membership of the EU gives the NCA and UK police forces access to tools that allow them to share intelligence quickly and efficiently with European counterparts.

But Ben Ticehurst added: "Customs arrangements remain an issue that needs to be resolved. Nobody could argue that this is not the case.

"But let's not pretend that EU customs arrangements have been some sort of ideal, crime proof arrangement over the past decades. The EU has been an area in which many criminals have been able to perpetrate fraud through complex trading arrangements that have seen, for example, the UK's VAT system open to abuse.

"The UK government took steps to dramatically reduce the scope for VAT fraud. It would be foolish to assume that any customs arrangements that did offer the scope for fraud would not be recognised and tackled once they became apparent.

"Let us also not forget that last year saw the Criminal Finances Act passed in the UK. This piece of legislation makes a company criminally liable for failing to prevent tax evasion by a member of its staff or an external agent; even if that business was not involved in or aware of the evasion. It is a far-reaching Act that indicates that the UK is far from lax when it comes to recognising the need to tackle financial crime.

"There is no doubt that Brexit will present challenges for those in business and finance. It may also change the landscape for those who enforce the law. But for the NCA to say that we will be entering an era in which corruption, fraud and money laundering are on the rise is both pessimistic and inaccurate.

"Strides have been taken in recent years to tackle such issues. Brexit is unlikely to mean any backward steps when it comes to dealing with these problems.''

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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