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UK financial crime watchdog empowered to back public access to cash

The UK government protects access to cash; British and Romanian authorities broke up a human trafficking gang; and Cyprus’ authorities went online to fight money laundering.

Napier AI
May 20, 2022

The week was a triumph for financial crime regulators and law enforcement agencies, as the UK government planned to guarantee access to cash; British and Romanian authorities broke up a transnational human trafficking gang; and Cyprus’ authorities went online to fight money laundering.

Find out more on these stories below.

UK’s financial services authority set to honour Queen’s promise to ensure communities’ access to cash

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is acquiring new powers, as promised in the Queen’s speech on the 10th May 2022, to ensure that all British communities have access to cash.

The bill came about amid concerns that dwindling bank branch and ATM numbers and/or opening hours in rural and underprivileged areas could compromise the ability of members of those communities to withdraw their cash funds in the face of rising living costs. The so-called Financial Services and Markets Bill will make banks and building societies accountable to the FCA.

Consumer rights organisation Which? had observed in its Freedom to Pay campaign that cash “is a necessity millions couldn’t live without, and a backup for everyone when online systems fail.” Their research found that 4,685 bank branches and 12,178 free-to-use ATMs have shut down in the last seven years. Meanwhile, 5.4 million UK adults are thought to rely heavily on cash use in their daily lives.

The UK Economic Secretary, John Glen, added that he wanted “to make sure that people are still able to use cash as part of their daily lives, and it’s crucial to ensure that no person nor community across the UK is left behind as we embrace a more digital world.”

Read more on this story at Sky News.

Anglo-Romanian law enforcement operation busts human trafficking, money laundering ring

UK and Romanian law enforcement authorities, with the support of Eurojust, have demolished a 10-year-old organised crime group (OCG) which recruited and trafficked human beings between the two countries for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Minors are among the Romania-based syndicate’s victims, which pimped women, laundered money, produced child pornography, and committed forgery.

The bust was the culmination of a joint investigation team (JIT) operation that started in August 2021. In Romania, 10 house raids yielded nine arrests, while four cars valued at €250k in total, €137k in cash, and €1m in assets were seized, along with weapons and electronic devices. In the UK, six raids resulted in five arrests, with cash, weapons, and drugs also seized.

The OCG’s modus operandi was to recruit vulnerable women in Romania, lure them into prostitution in the UK, where their services were advertised on escort websites, and keep the victims in line using threats of violence against them and their families.

The gang is thought to have made more than €3m from this coerced prostitution operation, which they then laundered through the UK banking system and funnelled back into Romanian accounts for the group’s leaders to access.

Read more on this story at Eurojust.

Cypriot regulator implements online beneficial ownership register to combat money laundering

The Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) launched the online Cyprus Beneficial Ownership Register of Express Trusts and Similar Legal Arrangements (CyTBOR), stating that the register would be active from the 17th of May 2022.

CySEC explained that the platform was established in accordance with Cyprus’ 2007 Prevention and Suppression of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Law (AML/CFT law), and complies with the requirements of the EU’s fourth and fifth Directives on fighting money laundering and terrorist funding.

The Platform will see CyTBOR provide access to up-to-date data revealing the true identities of all owners and beneficiaries of trusts and business entities, and can be accessed at will by Cyprian customs, tax authorities, the Unit for Combating Money Laundering (MOKAS), and the police. ‘Liable entities’ will also be able to access data needed to perform due diligence and identity checks on clients.

CySEC Chairman, George Theocharides, highlighted that “this is a very important project both for the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission and our country, helping to provide full transparency and compliance for all supervised entities, ensuring the credibility of the market.”

Read more on this story at International Investment.

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Photo by Christopher Bill on Unsplash

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