Scot­land be­hind rest of UK in dirty cash con­vic­tions, finds global re­port

The Herald - - NEWS - DAVID LEASK CHIEF RE­PORTER

SCOT­LAND con­victs far fewer peo­ple un­der money-laun­der­ing laws than the rest of the UK, ac­cord­ing to a ma­jor new global re­port.

In­ter­na­tional re­searchers – in a broadly pos­i­tive re­port on Bri­tain’s ef­forts to tackle dirty money – said pros­e­cu­tions were “no­tably lower” north of the Border than in the south.

Ex­perts at Fi­nan­cial Ac­tion Task Force (FATF) – a body set up by the G7 group of ad­vanced economies to tackle se­ri­ous global crim­i­nal­ity – said there had been a dozen spe­cific money-laun­der­ing con­vic­tions in Scot­land in 2016 com­pared with nearly 2,000 in Eng­land and 58 in North­ern Ire­land.

How­ever, jus­tice in­sid­ers in Scot­land are not con­vinced FATF’S com­par­i­son is fair be­cause Scot­tish pros­e­cu­tors have other op­tions for charg­ing laun­der­ers and be­cause they face the re­quire­ment for cor­rob­o­ra­tion.

How­ever, they ac­knowl­edge there is still more Scot­tish au­thor­i­ties can do to root out those try­ing to clean the pro­ceeds of their crimes in this coun­try.

FATF said: “The UK rou­tinely and ag­gres­sively iden­ti­fies, pur­sues and pri­ori­tises money-laun­der­ing. An­nu­ally, the UK achieves around 7,900 in­ves­ti­ga­tions, 2,000 pros­e­cu­tions and 1,400 con­vic­tions for cases of stand­alone ML or where ML was the pri­mary of­fence. Pros­e­cu­tion and con­vic­tion fig­ures are no­tably lower in Scot­land.

“This may be due to Scot­land’s higher ev­i­den­tiary thresh­old.”

Scot­land has had some big suc­cesses against money-laun­der­ers in re­cent years.

Last week a gang of four Lat­vians were jailed for 20 years for money-laun­der­ing and fraud. The group, in­clud­ing Hardijs Lang­steins, had traf­ficked vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple from the Baltic na­tion, put them up in West Loth­ian and forced them to open bank ac­counts. How­ever, they were con­victed of catch-all Scot­tish or­gan­ised crime of­fences and would not nec­es­sar­ily have shown up in sta­tis­ti­cal anal­y­sis off the kind car­ried out by FATF.

An of­fi­cial Crown Of­fice and Procu­ra­tor Fis­cal Ser­vice (COPFS) spokesman said: “The FATF re­port notes that de­spite the higher ev­i­den­tial stan­dards re­quired in Scot­land, the Crown Of­fice and Procu­ra­tor Fis­cal Ser­vice has had a num­ber of no­table suc­cesses in the pros­e­cu­tion of money laun­der­ing.

“In Scot­land, money laun­der­ing can also be pros­e­cuted as a dif­fer­ent statu­tory of­fence, namely be­ing in­volved in se­ri­ous and or­gan­ised crime, and also via com­mon law in terms of the Scot­tish crime of re­set or as part of other crim­i­nal charges.

“A num­ber of steps have al­ready been taken to en­hance COPFS’ ca­pa­bil­ity to pros­e­cute these crimes and COPFS will con­tinue to de­velop train­ing and tools and col­lab­o­rate with law en­force­ment partners to ef­fec­tively pros­e­cute such cases.

“In ad­di­tion, the Lord Ad­vo­cate has se­cured ad­di­tional fund­ing for the COPFS Se­ri­ous and Or­gan­ised Crime Unit and this will help build ca­pac­ity in Scot­land to in­ves­ti­gate and pros­e­cute such cases.”

Scot­land has been praised in­ter­na­tion­ally for ef­forts to tar­get and dis­rupt high-level gang­sters. Sources be­lieve many of the English money-laun­der­ing charges are for low-level fig­ures, “tid­dlers”, or “mules”.

These in­clude stu­dents duped by crim­i­nals into earn­ing “easy money” by let­ting dirty money clean­ers flush trans­fers through their ac­counts.

FAFT men­tioned the Scot­tish Crime Cam­pus at Gart­cosh where mul­ti­ple UK and Scot­tish agen­cies came to­gether to pri­ori­tise sig­nif­i­cant play­ers and their laun­der­ing net­works.

The global re­searchers stress that chal­lenges are ris­ing, with Scot­tish fig­ures show­ing a more than 58 per cent rise in red flags for po­ten­tial laun­der­ing ac­tiv­ity re­ported be­tween 2013 and 2017.

FATF also said that Po­lice Scot­land ac­counted for four of the 180 se­ri­ous money-laun­der­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions un­der way across the UK.

Ben Wal­lace, the UK minister for Se­cu­rity and Eco­nomic Crime, said he was de­lighted with the re­port’s find­ings.

He said: “The UK has taken a lead­ing role in the global fight against il­licit fi­nance.

“We will use all the pow­ers and tac­tics we have, as set out in the new Se­ri­ous and Or­gan­ised Crime Strat­egy, to drive money laun­der­ers out of the UK and clamp down on those that threaten our se­cu­rity.”

FATF also called for the UK to take fur­ther ac­tion on the sin­gle form of cor­po­rate en­tity that does most to put Scot­land into in­ter­na­tional laun­der­ing head­lines: the lim­ited part­ner­ship or SLP.

Sep­a­rately, this week it emerged that none of the thou­sands of SLPS flout­ing ba­sic trans­parency rules im­posed to end their wide­spread abuse had been fined. FATF, how­ever, praised Bri­tain’s cor­po­rate trans­parency.

Money-laun­der­ing ex­pert Gra­ham Bar­row sug­gested in­dus­trial-scale abuse of SLPS and sim­i­lar English en­ti­ties sug­gested all was not as rosy as the FATF sug­gested.

He said: “The UK gets a mostly clean bill of health from FATF at the same time that 100s of UK en­ti­ties (mainly LLPS and SLPS) are used in ev­ery ma­jor laun­dro­mat over the last 10 years.

“Which sug­gests FATF mea­sures ac­tions not out­comes. Not the same thing.”

West­min­ster is re­spon­si­ble for cor­po­rate law on is­sues like SLPS and much reg­u­la­tion. Money-laun­der­ing en­force­ment in Scot­land is de­volved, though HMRC looks at tax cases.

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