The fight against financial crime in the United Kingdom (UK) has gone through numerous cycles, just like the economy, over the last thirty years. Gripped by the fear of fraud in the 1980s, the then Conservative government, as a result of the recommendations of the Roskill Committee, created the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) by virtue of the Criminal Justice Act 1987. Similarly, following the ‘regrettable’ decision of the House of Lords in R v Cuthbertson, the Conservative government commissioned the Hodgson Committee to investigate how it could tackle the problems associated with confiscating the proceeds of crime. The recommendations of the Hodgson Committee were instrumental in the implementation of the Drug Trafficking Offence Act 1986 which introduced a broader set of confiscation measures, criminalised money laundering and also the first anti-money laundering reporting (AML) obligations. In the following decade, the Conservative government responded to the threat posed by money laundering and implemented the 1993 Money Laundering Regulations and the Criminal Justice Act 1993. Following the General Election victory in the 1997 the Labour government introduced an AML and counter-terrorist financing strategy that was administered by HM Treasury. This was followed by the implementation of the recommendations of the Performance and Innovation Unit Report via the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. This legislation sought to bolster the AML reporting obligations and the ability of the then Assets Recovery Agency to confiscate the proceeds of crime. Furthermore, following the publication of the Fraud Review the Labour government implemented the Fraud Act 2006 and updated the UK’s anti-bribery measures by introducing the Bribery Act 2010. Prior to the 2010 General Election, David Cameron MP, made his infamous ‘Day of Reckoning Speech’, in which he promised to bring the culprits of the financial crisis to justice. This was echoed in the 2010 Coalition agreement where the government stated it would “take white collar crime as seriously as other crime, so we will create a single agency to take on the work of tackling serious economic crime”. This was followed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne declaring in his first Mansion House Speech that ‘we will tackle financial crime’. As a result, the Coalition government has introduced legislation to tackle the illegal conduct of those who contributed toward the financial crisis via the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013. However, this only applies where a bank becomes insolvent as a result of the conduct of its employees. The Coalition government have drastically reduced the budget of the SFO, at a time when we have seen a significant increase in financial crime and when it is a year away from the first LIBOR related prosecution. Therefore, despite the bold statements from the Coalition government since 2010, their response to financial crime can be best described as lackluster, mismanaged and unstructured. However, the recent allegations of traders manipulating the foreign exchange rates have presented the Coalition government with the opportunity to possibly reclaim the political high ground to tackle financial crime.
Ryder, N. (2014). The good, the bad and the down right ugly. Criminal Lawyer, 221, 5-6