‘Chronic’ and ‘corrosive’: new insights on the impact of organised crime in the UK

The National Crime Agency (NCA) recently published its 2019 National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime1 (SOC) and it contained some stark facts on the level of threat the UK now faces. Find out more in this blog post.

Cityscape of London - UK financial centre at risk from organised & financial crime

In a speech2 made to accompany the launch of the assessment, Director General of the NCA, Lynne Owens, shared a range of startling statistics on the impact of serious and organised crime:

“Affects more UK citizens, more frequently than any other national security threat”

“Kills more of our citizens every year than terrorism, war and natural disasters combined”

“Costs the UK at least £37 billion each year”

Noting that the threat of SOC was ‘ever-evolving’ and ‘growing at breakneck speed’, Owens particularly called out the rapid pace of technological development as a significant factor in the challenge the UK faces to manage organised crime.

For those working in the financial services, the section on harm to the UK’s economy and institutions makes for particularly interesting reading and reveals some new insights on the nature of financial and economic crime activity in the UK.

We’ve pulled out the highlights:

Money Laundering

The NCA notes that criminals continue to use UK organisations to conceal and move illicit funds and puts the potential value of laundered funds moving annually through the UK in the hundreds of billions of pounds.

Trade-based money laundering (TBML) is mentioned as a significant threat due to the sheer volume of trading that moves through London’s capital markets, and the sophistication and complexity of methods and techniques now used by offenders.

Fraud and Insider Dealing

Fraud remains the most commonly experienced crime in the UK, with an estimated overall cost of £190 billion and the NCA notes that 84% of fraud reported was estimated to be cyber-enabled.

Firms should be particularly alert to the threat of organised insider dealing rings who are believed to operate by recruiting insider sources.

Money changing hands in money laundering deal

Bribery, Corruption and Sanctions

The breach of sanctions undermines the integrity of the UK’s financial system as well as potentially contributing to the funding of terrorism.

The NCA notes that it’s a realistic possibility that Brexit will impact the prevalence of bribery and corruption over the next five years as UK businesses may come into greater contact with corrupt markets.

Cybercrime

Cybercrime continues to evolve in its complexity. Russian-language organised crime rings (OCRs) using ‘financial trojans’ present the biggest cybercrime threat to the UK. These trojans are a form of malware that targets online banking users.

In a new development this year, we are told that different OCRs are likely to be collaborating and combining different forms of malware within the same attacks. This represents a level up in terms of the complexity of cyber attacks businesses need to protect themselves against. The report notes that the level of these attacks is now as “sophisticated as those used by nation-state threat actors”.

“Organised crime is a societal problem”

With the assessment painting a somewhat bleak picture of the threat facing the UK, Owens calls for a coordinated, societal response from the Government, the private sector and the general public.

The finance and regulated sectors need to “crack down on illicit finance”, while the tech sector should be working with law enforcement to stop criminals abusing their platforms.

But Owens says that “crucially, the public needs to be our eyes and ears” and calls upon individuals to report concerns or suspicious behaviour.

Image of a man launching a cyber attack - organised crime

How can firms play their part in the fight against organised crime?

For firms, helping to combat the threat of organised crime requires a similarly coordinated response that flows through the business from top to bottom.

Take a proactive role in understanding the breadth and depth of risks your particular organisation faces and then review or put in place strong policies and controls to mitigate them. IT teams, in particular, now play a critical role in helping to combat the threat of cyber breaches – and with the ever-evolving nature of this threat, safeguarding IT networks and platforms must be an on-going activity.

But, as Owens says above, it’s those ‘on the ground’ that play the most crucial role. Frontline staff are the financial sector’s ‘eyes and ears’, the same as the public in general.

Your staff are your ‘first line of defence’ and a critical part of any firm’s activity in fighting financial crime should be focused on equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to play their part.

Firms need to develop strategies that support a working culture where everyone is aware of the risks, can spot suspicious activity and feels able to speak up and report their concerns.

Training is a great way to strengthen your ‘first line of defence’

Training is just one component of this strategy, but it can play a valuable role in ensuring staff:

  • Are cognisant to the risks and can spot ‘red flags’
  • Feel confident in taking the right course of action
  • Understand their role in mitigating risks and feel responsible and accountable to play their part.

At Eukleia, we offer a range of off-the-shelf training courses on the key risk areas in financial crime, including:

To find out more about our financial crime training offering, including custom courses and instructor-led training, just get in touch.

 

Additional Sources:
1. NCA (2019) National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime
2. NCA (2019) Speech by DG Lynne Owens

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