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The Treasury has unveiled plans to create a new watchdog that will tackle potential weaknesses in the anti-money laundering supervisory system. The new Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) will seek to improve the overall standards of supervision and ensure supervisors and law enforcement work together more effectively.

The news that HM Government is to create such an office is not surprising. Sectors at risk of being used to facilitate money laundering and terrorist financing are supervised by 25 organisations, 22 of which are accountancy and legal services providers’ professional bodies and set down in schedule 3 of the Money laundering Regulations 2007. The complex and unified landscape was therefore ripe for reform and simplification. For more information see Legal update, HM Government to create Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision.

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Corporate wrong doing has been on and off the agenda over the past couple of years. While the City faces criticism for providing money laundering services,  the Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced a Cabinet Office review of the effectiveness of the current investigatory and prosecution authorities to tackle economic crime. This may not address the problem. The Law Commission has stated that the current corporate liability regime makes prosecuting large companies impossibly difficult.  Continue reading

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A score for the police?

A surprising theft conviction was reported in the media this week, when a 23 year old woman was convicted of theft after keeping a £20 note she found in a shop in Blurton, Staffordshire.  Three months after picking up the money, the woman was contacted by the police and asked to attend a voluntary police station for an interview. She later received a letter asking her to attend court, where she entered a plea of guilty to theft. She received a conditional discharge, in addition to £135 in court costs. Continue reading

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The time spent discussing and commenting on the future of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is extensive. No other investigation or prosecution agency seems to attract the same level of speculation as to what it should do, how successful it should be, who should superintend it, how much money it should receive and whether it should exist at all.

Often missing from this debate is the changing role of the SFO during its 30 years. Originally its remit was, as the title suggests, the investigation and prosecution of serious fraud. Over time, it has become the lead agency in England and Wales for prosecuting bribery and corruption, developed a substantial unit dedicated to recovering the proceeds of crime, and more recently been the lead agency for the introduction of Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA). As HM Government’s call for evidence on the reform of corporate liability progresses (see Blog, Or the beginning of corporate prosecution? 3 February 2017) and the “failure to prevent” offence is gradually expanded, the SFO’s current workload is only going to increase. Continue reading

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On 17 January 2017, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) enjoyed its best result since R v Hayes with the securing of a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with Rolls-Royce, the British aero-engineering company. After announcing the agreement in principle, approval was given at a hearing before Sir Brian Leveson QC, President of the Queen’s Bench Division.  The agreement will result in the payment of approximately £500 million and a payment in respect of the SFO’s costs. Continue reading

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Although an individual’s views on 2016 are largely dependent on their view of two significant political events, several other events on their own are likely to cloud 2016. Adverts on the Underground invite you to “just forget 2016 ever happened”,  while many suggest “a 2016” will enter modern parlance to describe a bad year. In the business crime sphere, 2016 could best be described as busy.

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Anti-social media

When Charles Babbage designed  the world’s first electronic computer between 1833 and 1871, he probably didn’t turn his mind to the use that might be made of such a device. Advance 145 years and we all see that rather than being essentially devices for carrying out mathematical calculations they are now the biggest platform for social media interaction. That easy interaction and the appearance of anonymity have meant that the computer and mobile phone have quickly become tools used by some to ridicule, defame, blackmail, extort, humiliate and expose. Continue reading

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was first published in the New Yorker in 1939. It tells the story of a nondescript individual who fantasises about being, variously, a US Navy pilot, a brilliant surgeon, an assassin, a Royal Air Force pilot on a suicide mission and, finally, facing a firing squad. The literary character was a largely harmless daydreamer living in an imaginary world, and has entered modern parlance as a more sinister character who attempts to mislead others into pretending he is someone else.

The law has traditionally not sought to criminalise fantasists or eccentrics unless they do so for fraudulent reasons, or their conduct causes harm. Hence one of the most famous impostors in recent history, Frank Abagnale, was imprisoned for fraud offences after posing variously as an airline pilot, a physician, US government agent and a lawyer.

The House of Commons Defence Committee has recently published a Report entitled Exposing Walter Mitty: The Awards for Valour (Protection) Bill The Bill, “to prohibit the wearing or public display, by a person not entitled to do so, of medals or insignia awarded for valour, with the intent to deceive” was initially introduced as a Private Members Bill, which seeks to restore protections into law by attaching criminal sanctions.  Continue reading

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When Elizabeth Truss took her oath of office to become Lord Chancellor she swore that ” I,  Elizabeth Truss, do swear that in the office of Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain I will respect the rule of law, defend the independence of the judiciary and discharge my duty to ensure the provision of resources for the efficient and effective support of the courts for which I am responsible.  So help me God.”

The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 substantially changed the office of Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor is no longer the head of the judiciary or speaker of the House of Lords, and since 2007 the office has been combined with that of Secretary of State for Justice.

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