Financial institutions have come under scrutiny as the recently leaked “Fincen files” reveal banks and financial services firms that have been taking dirty cash from suspected money launderers.

Neil Swift says “on the whole, banks take their obligations to file suspicious activity reports very seriously”. He argues that the reporting system is used to raise a “red flag” but that it serves little purpose if an investigation is not triggered or informed. “Law enforcement agencies might feel overwhelmed by the volume of reports they are receiving, but there is doubtless more that they could be doing to trace and investigate suspicious funds, if sufficiently resourced. He is more positive about the provisions of the 2017 legislation. He says that the law means that UK authorities have more time to open either criminal or civil recovery investigations when they receive a report from the bank, and they  have more tools at their disposal, such as account freezing and forfeiture orders. Neil calls for regulators and investigators to be quicker to use orders, although he acknowledges that their effectiveness “will hinge on fair use so as to avoid innocent parties getting unnecessarily caught up by them”. Read more