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Money Laundering

Volume 457: debated on Wednesday 7 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will transpose into UK law the requirements of the third money laundering directive on (a) protecting people making suspicious activity reports from reprisals, (b) publishing information on the effectiveness of the reporting regime annually and (c) encouraging and enabling compliance by publishing information on trends in the criminal activities targeted by the directive. (125099)

The Government are fully committed to fulfilling the requirements of the 3rd European Union money laundering directive. Part 7 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 is compliant with the directive. In respect of the three issues identified, it will not be necessary for the Government to bring forward new legislation to achieve compliance. These obligations will be fulfilled by other means.

The Government recognise the importance of protecting the identity of those making suspicious activity reports (SARs) to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), and have taken firm action to address this matter. After consultation with the private sector we issued detailed guidance to the police, other law enforcement agencies, and prosecution agencies on the importance of confidentiality in the handling of SARs. Adherence to this guidance is a condition of access to the SARs database maintained by the Serious Organised Crime Agency. This issue was also addressed in Sir Stephen Lander's review of the SARs regime which was published in April 2006. SOCA has subsequently set up a dedicated telephone line to enable any breaches of the guidelines to be reported. We will keep the guidance under review.

SOCA has governance of the SARs regime and will be reporting to Ministers on its effectiveness through an annual report in October 2007. An unclassified version will be published on the SOCA website thereafter. This will include information on breaches of confidentiality.

SOCA regularly shares information on trends and specific threats in money laundering activities with the reporting institutions, the regulatory bodies and law enforcement agencies. In addition, SOCA has established the following mechanisms to facilitate effective governance and dialogue about the SARs regime:

a sub-committee of SOCA’s board to oversee the regime's governance. Membership is comprised of representatives from the reporting sector, regulators, SOCA and end users;

a vetted group, comprising representatives of the reporting sectors, of law enforcement and of the key policy departments, to discuss sensitive casework and reporting issues, and to clear the distribution of SOCA alerts and guidance;

Sector specific seminars, aimed at providing directed feedback to individual sectors;

a regulators' forum, to provide regulators with information about reporting within their sectors; and

an alerts branch to issue warnings and advice to encourage businesses, the public and others to take appropriate action against serious organised crime.