International - Written by on Sunday, October 5, 2014 4:03 - 0 Comments

BREAKING: UK Government backtracks over economic crime enforcement

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398px-Theresa_May_-_Home_Secretary_and_minister_for_women_and_equalitySpeaking in the last few days sources tell us that Adam Thompson at the Home Office and lead for the National Anti-Corruption Plan revised expectations backwards for the publication of the UK Anti-Corruption plan.

It can now be expected, he said, ‘this year’.

That noise you just heard was the sound of a ball being kicked into the long grass.

Three weeks is a long time in politics…

Only a few weeks ago in late June at the C5 conference Oliver Heald QC MP announced that the UK’s first anti-corruption plan would be published imminently in the next few weeks.  He was Solicitor General.

At that conference, in a sneak preview, the Solicitor General disclosed much in the telegraphed report would be about improving coordination across law enforcement and government agencies and fast response.

The speech echoed the words of Ken Clarke shortly before when he was reported by the FT saying, “We want to be satisfied that we are among the countries with the highest standards in the world because it enforces the reputation of the City of London and the legal system in this country,” .  A source told us that when then asked about the future of the SFO he remarked that that battle was won a long time ago.

Three weeks later Oliver Heald was sacked in a government reshuffle.

The Anti-corruption plan was no-where to be seen.

Opinion

The delay in the production of a plan confidently predicted to be imminent months ago is a matter of serious concern.

Theresa May, the Home Office minister said in the summer that “for too long” the UK had “not taken economic crime seriously”.

Yet the report promised to address the problem is now firmly on the back burner according to a Home Office official.  There is no explanation for the delay about a plan which everyone agreed back in the summer was urgently needed.  Those who were championing the report, anti-corruption and the SFO have been moved out of government.

The government talks a good game on fighting corruption and economic crime but actions speak louder than words.

Shortly before his departure from government Ken Clarke told the FT, “We will have to face up to the fact that we will have to look at funding…the one difficulty with enforcing really serious frauds of international significance is that they are hugely expensive and costly to investigate and prosecute.”

Weeks later Ken Clarke left the government along with Oliver Heald.

All hat and no cows

We agree with the Home Office Minister that “for too long” the UK had “not taken economic crime seriously”.

Yet, at the same time, the Home Office is back peddling on the publication of the Anti-Corruption plan, we have reported on inadequate SFO funding, cuts to the funding of the City of London Police and a drastic reduction in the work done by the National Crime Agency in sifting reports of corruption and sending them on in intelligence packs to those who might investigate them.

The SFO has received some extra funding to deal with specific investigations.  But.  In a throwback to Oliver Twist, the Director of the SFO is forced to get out his begging bowl and go off to the Treasury forced to  beg, ‘Please sir, can I have some more’.

Economic crime is not a victimless crime.  We all pay more.

Markets are distorted, inferior products are sold, public funds are squandered and there is no level playing field.  Statistics say the cost runs into huge numbers.  But it is hard to quantify something which by its very nature is happening under the table.

Parliament must do more than create new laws.  Existing and new laws must be backed by cash and backing for those public servants charged with the task of enforcing them.

The anti-corruption plan should be published without delay.

Otherwise, the UK risks creating the perception of being all hat and no cows, when it comes to economic crime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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