On 30 March 2023 the UK government launched its second Economic Crime Plan (2023–2026). The Royal United Services Institute’s team of UK economic crime experts note it is a positive development, although it could be strengthened in some areas to fully tackle economic crime.
After a nine-month delay, the UK government has unveiled its plan for tackling economic crimes including money laundering, fraud, kleptocracy and sanctions evasion, with the following priority areas:
- Reducing money laundering and recovering criminal assets.
- Combatting kleptocracy and driving down sanctions evasion.
- Cutting fraud.
- Reducing the threat posed by international illicit finance to the UK and its interests.
With an estimated £100 billion in criminal proceeds laundered through the UK every year, fraud costing the UK an estimated £136 billion per annum, and growing concern about levels of Russian-linked and kleptocratic proceeds embedded in the UK economy, the publication of the plan is welcome.
However, RUSI’s experts in the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies (CFCS) note that there are concerning gaps in the response, which may derail its practical impact. These include:
- The additional 475 financial investigation staff allocated in the plan are not enough to turn the tide on decades of under-investment in economic crime enforcement.
- The government’s Fraud Strategy – delayed since July 2022 – remains unpublished, and must put in place a clear plan for engaging social media and technology companies in the future response.
- The government has not set out a long-term plan for removing the assets of sanctioned Russians from the UK economy in a rule of law-compliant manner, and must urgently publish its linked Anti-Corruption Strategy to chart a path forward and look beyond sanctions as the solution to the problem.
Reaction to the Plan from RUSI Experts:
The Plan aims to improve the policing response to economic crime, but does little to deal with the fact that economic crime represents only 1% of policing resources; the additional 475 staff earmarked in the plan will not be enough to stem a multi-jurisdictional, multi-billion pound threat to the UK’s national security.
Associate Fellow; Head of Public Policy at Cifas
The current epidemic of fraud against individuals, businesses and the public sector continues to have a hugely damaging effect on the UK’s economy, national security and global reputation. The Plan gives due importance to the fight against fraud, but it’s imperative now that the government finally publishes the much-delayed Fraud Strategy.
Senior Research Fellow
The Plan places a welcome focus on the threat that the proceeds of kleptocracy and corruption pose to the UK’s national security interests. However, the actions in the Plan are a timid starting point. The response to transnational illicit finance needs to look beyond sanctions to long-term asset recovery and criminal justice measures.
This programme focuses on the development and implementation of effective anti-financial crime policies and regulation both in the UK and internationally.
In July 2019, the UK government launched its first Economic Crime Plan (2019–2022) and, in March 2023, the UK government launched its second Economic Crime Plan (2023-2026). This project tracks and reviews the implementation of these plans.