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UK agency warns Brexit could lead to rise in organised crime

The UK body charged with fighting serious and organised crime has warned that the country’s impending withdrawal from the EU could lead to a rise in money laundering, bribery and other corporate offences.14 May 2018

The National Crime Agency’s (NCA) 2018 analysis of serious and organised crime threats (58 page / 3.48MB PDF) warns that a change in the profile of countries UK businesses trade with will increase the opportunities for trade-based money laundering, and open companies up to more corrupt practices.

“Criminals are not constrained by geographical or jurisdictional boundaries and are inherently opportunistic,” said the NCA report. “We expect that many will strive to take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit might present, for example from the design and implementation of a new UK customs system or from increased challenges for EU and UK law enforcement in locating and extraditing international fugitives if the UK were to lose enforcement or intelligence sharing tools.”

Corporate crime expert Laura Dunseath of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said:

"Brexit will continue to pose a risk of increased criminality for UK companies. There is still a need for better clarity around the types of cooperation frameworks that the authorities are going to have in place with their EU counterparts to replace existing frameworks for arrest warrants and extradition agreements.

“Calls for greater clarity have been voiced on several occasions by the likes of the Serious Fraud Office, but uncertainty remains,” Dunseath said.

The NCA analysis also said organised crime groups were increasingly using technology and profiting from globalisation to adapt their methods of committing serious crime. It said cyber crime was continuing to rise in both scale and complexity, but under-reporting of data breaches meant it was difficult to properly assess the scale and cost of hacks.

Looking ahead to 2023, the NCA said developments in technology would transform “the future crime landscape”. The introduction of tools such as artificial intelligence would present opportunities for criminal and law enforcement exploitation, with the increased use of technologies allowing secure and private browsing and communication facilitating criminality.

“Technology will continue its complex and global spread, with cyber crime very likely becoming more prevalent in countries which lack the capacity and/or capability to mount an effective response. This will increase the number of countries which pose a potential threat to the UK. It is possible that cyber criminal activity will locate within ‘safe havens’ in more hard-to-reach firewalled and ‘siloed’ jurisdictions,” said the NCA.

"For UK companies cyber crime will continue to be a growing risk, as the NCA highlights. Cyber criminals and cyber attack technology are becoming more sophisticated, and new technology continues to evolve to protect the identity of cyber criminals,” Dunseath said.

“It will become increasingly difficult for law enforcement to identify and prosecute these individuals. Companies really should be looking to improve their cyber protection technology as a matter of urgency,” Dunseath said.

The report identified an overlap between cyber crime and fraud offences, with the data sourced through cybersecurity breaches used to commit fraud.

The NCA said the implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation in late May 2018 would help provide a “richer” picture of the scale of data breaches in the UK as well as making businesses more responsible for breaches and ultimately crimes committed as a result of these.