On Monday 13 March the Financial Times, in an article titled
'UK economic crime agencies given fitness test', reported
on comments made by the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, alluding to a
review of the agencies tasked with tackling financial
crime.1 The comments were made during a Parliamentary
session on 5 December last year, in response to questions posed
about the UK's asset recovery regime. When asked how the Home
Office planned to strengthen the asset recovery regime, Ms. Rudd
"Next year we will publish
a new asset recovery action plan, and the Cabinet Office will look
at the UK's response to economic crime more broadly. This will
include looking at the effectiveness of our organisational
framework and the capabilities, resources and powers available to
the organisations that tackle economic
At the time of their making these comments do not appear to have
been widely reported. As the Financial Times article points out,
there has been no further public comment by the Government on the
scope of any review or its terms of reference. The Financial Times
does however report that the review covers the Serious Fraud
Office, Financial Conduct Authority, Her Majesty's Revenue and
Customs, the Competition and Markets Authority and the City of
London police (which specialises in financial crime). Moreover, the
article suggests that each agency has been asked to complete an
extensive questionnaire which covers, amongst other topics, its
It is not unreasonable to interpret Ms. Rudd's comments as
an indication that the Government is assessing the future of the
agencies that are the target of the review. The Prime Minister
Theresa May previously conducted several reviews of the
Government's framework for investigating and prosecuting
economic crime in her previous post as Home Secretary. Ms.
May's reviews attracted some controversy as they aimed to
combine the operation of the agencies under a central National
Crime Agency. Her proposed reforms were specifically targeted at
the SFO. In early 2011 it emerged that Ms. May was considering
scrapping the SFO, transferring its investigators to the National
Crime Agency and its prosecutors to the Crown Prosecution Service.
That proposal was eventually dropped, only to reemerge in late
2014. The proposal was not subsequently pursued.
Despite the zeal the Prime Minister has historically shown for
reforming the investigation and prosecution of complex and serious
financial crime, one should hesitate before concluding that Ms
Rudd's comments will result in previous proposals resurfacing.
The SFO has had some recent success, albeit principally in the area
of bribery and corruption, and is expected imminently to make
charging decisions on several significant and high-profile cases.
Furthermore, it may prove premature and ill-advised for the
Government to implement significant reform in this area before
gaining some insight into how the framework will be affected by the
UK's exit from the European Union. It seems more likely that
the review may precipitate changes to the funding of agencies,
their remits and, as mentioned in Ms. Rudd's comments, the
scope and basis of the powers at their disposal.
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