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Economic Crime

Volume 653: debated on Monday 21 January 2019

The Government have concentrated on bringing law enforcement together alongside regulators to focus ruthlessly on tackling dirty money and economic crime. In the next 18 months, we will invest over £48 million to bolster capabilities, including in the establishment of the National Economic Crime Centre.

Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that, by bringing together specialists across both the public sector and the private sector to tackle this, we can use the best of our experience to maintain our status as a global financial centre?

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. It is in all our interests to ensure that our financial sector and country tackle financial crime. The global scale of it demands that all of us play our part to burden-share, which is why the serious and organised crime strategy last year specifically committed to ensuring the widest response from both Government and the private sector.

A year ago, the Government introduced unexplained wealth orders to tackle the laundromat of dirty money in this country. It is reported that the National Crime Agency has identified 140 cases in which such an order would be appropriate, but only one order has been imposed in the past year. Why are the Government afraid of using the tools available to them?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to clarify some of his remarks. First, those orders were not introduced—enacted—until April last year, so they have not been used for a year; and two, not one, have been used. At the same time, the Criminal Finances Act 2017 brought into existence asset-freezing orders. In one year, since April, we have seen asset-freezing orders used 200 times alone in the Metropolitan police, freezing over £40 million. I assure him that the use of unexplained wealth orders will continue. However, he will know as a lawyer that the courts and the judiciary have to get used to understanding them, and we have to understand how the courts interpret the legislation; but he should not worry, the asset-freezing orders are doing their job, as will the unexplained wealth orders.