03 January 2018

The UK's new anti-corruption strategy

In December, the UK government published its new anti-corruption strategy (PDF). The strategy is designed to provide the framework for anti-corruption policies and actions over the next five years. Its ultimate objective is to ensure that the UK "remains one of the safest and cleanest places in the world to do business".

The government has identified the following six priorities:

  1. Reduce the insider threat in high-risk domestic sectors.
  2. Strengthen the integrity of the UK as an international finance centre.
  3. Promote integrity across the public and private sectors.
  4. Reduce corruption in public procurement and grants.
  5. Improve the business environment globally.
  6. Work with other countries to combat corruption.

What does this mean in practice?

The strategy paper provides a number of pointers for businesses as to the areas where we can expect change. We provide a summary of some of the provisions that are of most practical relevance.

1. New public beneficial ownership register for overseas legal entities

The government will publish a draft bill in this session of parliament for the establishment of a public register of beneficial ownership of overseas legal entities. The register will require any overseas entities to provide information on their owners and controllers when they own or purchase a property in the UK or participate in central government contracts.

A key objective of this register is to "identify, in a public and easily accessible way, the owners and controllers of overseas legal entities that own property in the UK, increasing transparency and trust in the UK property market and supporting law enforcement in their investigations."

2. Changes to government architecture on economic crime

The government will create a new Minister for Economic Crime in the Home Office, introduce a Ministerial Economic Crime Strategy Board and will establish a National Economic Crime Centre, based in the National Crime Agency. In respect of sanctions, the government will "continue to support the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) in imposing monetary penalties" and will "continue to assess the effectiveness of financial sanction".

3. Improving the Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) regime

The SAR regime was strengthened earlier this year with the introduction of 'super SARs'. In pursuit of a stronger public-private partnership the government will: "reform the SAR regime, upgrading capabilities (including IT) and making the necessary legislative, operational and technical changes".

4. Implementation of the remainder of the Criminal Finances Act 2017: April 2018

The provisions of the Criminal Finances Act 2017, one of the most significant developments in the UK anti-money laundering regime in the last decade, are designed to be rolled out on a staged basis. A number of provisions are yet to come into force, including those relating to Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs). The government says it "will implement all key elements of the Criminal Finances Act, including Unexplained Wealth Orders, by the end of April 2018 (subject to parliamentary time)."

5. A new corporate offence of failure to prevent economic crime

The strict liability corporate "failure to prevent" offences are currently limited to the sphere of bribery and the facilitation of tax evasion. A 2017 Call for Evidence proposed extending corporate criminal liability to wider economic crimes. The government says it will "consider the findings" and "if appropriate…consult on how new offences might be introduced".

How can Burges Salmon help?

We are helping clients in understanding the government’s plans and developing strategies to respond to the evolving legal and enforcement environment. If you would like help with this, or have any questions, please contact our fraud and white collar crime team.

Key contact

Cheryl Parkhouse

Cheryl Parkhouse Senior Associate

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