Working together to prevent £12 billion of money laundering in the UK 

Officers from the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) have been responding to the threat of cash-based money laundering in communities across the region to make sure that crime does not pay.  

Funds from money laundering can be used to finance illegal activity such as organised crime, human trafficking, and terrorism. Assets from these crimes or any others need an outlet to launder the proceeds, therefore it is important to remove or educate at the point where criminals integrate their criminal money to prevent crimes being profitable. 

SEROCU officers joined representatives from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) during February to carry out days of action to help prevent money laundering. 

As part of this work officers and HMRC representatives visited several Money Service Businesses (MSB) – businesses which operate by transferring money and must be registered with HMRC – to inform them about warning signs in relation to cash-based money laundering and share information with their staff. These are the outlets criminals often exploit so their cash assets can be integrated into the system. 

  • On 8 February officers and HMRC visited 49 Money Service Business premises in Slough, Berkshire, to engage with those working there and remind them of their responsibilities to carry out thorough checks. On 10 February officers and HMRC visited 15 premises and engaged in conversations about anti-money laundering in Woking, Surrey, . They also observed businesses carrying out checks on their customers. 
  • On 15 February officers and HMRC visited 27 premises and engaged in conversations on preventing money laundering in Brighton, Sussex, and completed leaflet drops to help educate and inform. 
  • On 17 February officers and HMRC visited premises in Southampton, Hampshire  and had 20 conversations about anti-money laundering in a day of action. 

Detective Chief Inspector Rob Bryant, of SEROCU, said: “Around £12 billion in cash is laundered in the UK every year so it is vital that we take action to tackle this issue and look to prevent it. These funds could be used to finance illegal activity such as organised crime, human trafficking or even terrorism. 

“We are working together to make the region a harder place for criminals to launder cash and our aim is to deter the use of criminal cash. 

“One of the ways money leaves the UK is via Money Service Businesses – so it is important these outlets are aware of their responsibilities and carry out thorough checks on their customers.  

“By working together with HMRC, which oversees Money Service Businesses, SEROCU and the police forces across the south east were able to visit many premises to ensure they are aware of any warning signs. If Money Service Businesses do not comply with anti-money laundering regulations, they could face serious consequences such as fines or even criminal convictions. 

“Whilst we discovered there were some knowledge gaps, most of the Money Service Businesses were happy to engage with us to enable us to work collaboratively to tackle and prevent the issue.  

 “We also used this opportunity to inform businesses about spotting the warning signs for other offences, such as ‘romance’ fraud, in which a person may be under duress to transfer money abroad and human trafficking.” 

HMRC’s Matt Touzel the Taskforce lead for the Cross-Government Money Service Businesses (MSB), said: “HMRC is a fully engaged and active participant in cross-government and law enforcement agency work to tackle economic crime and money laundering. Cross-government cooperation is key to dealing with the menace of money laundering.  

“The Money Laundering Regulations place robust and uncompromising obligations on Money Service Businesses (MSBs) to have appropriate policies, controls and procedures in place to protect themselves from criminals seeking to exploit them. MSBs must be vigilant in identifying those who seek to exploit them and comply in full with their obligations. We remain committed to helping MSBs who want to comply with the regulations whilst rigorously rooting out and tackling those who don’t. 

“We have a vigorous programme of compliance inspections where we check that MSBs are complying with their anti-money laundering obligations, and we take a robust approach to those who don’t comply.” 

HMRC publishes detailed guidance on its website on money laundering.