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Where and how Britain fails on anti-money laundering

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Where and how Britain fails on anti-money laundering

David N. Robinson

Like most of the countries, money laundering is a major threat in the United Kingdom and unfortunately it’s not been taken seriously enough. As a major player in cross-border banking, the country doesn’t just need to combat domestic financial crimes: It is also at risk of becoming a hub for transmitting and investing criminal funds obtained overseas. While the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental body that develops policies to combat financial crime, recognizes the United Kingdom for its aggressive stance on some types of money laundering, there is limited evidence of how well the country investigates high-end money laundering – a longstanding risk area that watchdog agencies are pressing with urgency.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) estimates that hundreds of billions of pounds are laundered through UK banks and their subsidiaries every year. These illegal funds are then used to purchase properties, luxury goods and other expenditures of a fabulous lifestyle. Unfortunately, many banks and corporations do not look into the sources of such funding, and regulators often do not sufficiently penalize them for turning a blind eye.

Conflicts of interest, legal limitations and their own non-compliance keep regulators from strongly prosecuting money laundering, and when such regulations do get enforced, penalized corporations often receive fines so small that the amounts seem trivial. Firms that fail to be fully Anti Money Laundering (AML)-compliant have even avoided being publicly named in many cases, with regulators fining them just £1,000 – which amounts to little more than a parking penalty. More recent efforts to step up the regulatory game by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) involved naming non-compliant organizations – a rare move – and involved levying heftier fines.

One driving force behind halfhearted high-end money laundering investigation efforts is a belief that more robust AML would chill international investment. The assumption is that it is better to risk accepting criminal funds than to deter economic activity.

What does this mean? United Kingdom has no hesitation in accepting dirty money from the so-called foreign investors to keep its economic activity active. Isn’t that unethical? Surely it is. Otherwise, how Britain has been accepting black money and dirty money for years thus compromising its commitment in combating money laundering?

Here is just an example of hundreds and thousands of cases of money laundering. A notorious man named Lt Col (sacked) Shahid Uddin Khan (Army No: BA002428, Course: 8-BMA, Commission Date: 10-06-1983), who along with his wife Farjana Anjum and daughters had smuggled out millions of dollars from Bangladesh and invested in various business ventures in United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.

In 2009, The Khans invested one million pounds in the United Kingdom in exchange of obtaining immigrant status under visa Tier 1, vide VAF No. 511702. The investment was made in the name of Shahid’s wife Farzana Anjum.

United Kingdom never enquired about the legality of the money Shahid and his family had invested, although it is learnt from various sources in Bangladesh that the family had never taken any permission from the Bangladesh Bank for repatriating such a huge amount of money.

Isn’t that a matter of disgrace for a country that boasts of to be one of the most law-abiding nations? It is no secret that Britain has become the epicenter of dirty money and now it also has turned into a safe haven of terrorists, jihadists and militancy funder. What Britons aren’t yet realizing is – once these elements start expanding network right inside United Kingdom, sooner or later, United Kingdom may face a serious threat posed by radical Islam, terrorism, anti-Semitism and jihad.

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