Brian Sims

Record number of SARs received and processed in last financial year

THE NATIONAL Crime Agency (NCA) has published the Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) Annual Report for 2022, which features statistics covering the years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022. A record has been set in the last financial year with 901,255 SARs received and processed. That represents a 21% increase on the previous reported period.

No less than £305.7 million has been denied to suspected criminals as a result of Defence Against Money Laundering (DAML) requests. This equates to a 120.6% increase on the £138.6 million denied in 2020-2021.

SARs are submitted to the NCA by individuals working in regulated sectors such as banking, legal and financial services where they suspect that transactions are being used to launder money or conceal criminal activity.

The financial and predicate crimes intelligence provided by SARs has proved to be invaluable as criminals sought to take advantage of the pandemic to advance their illicit enterprises. More recently, as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, SARs have provided increasingly important information on money laundering linked to sanctioned individuals and their associated entities.

In 2022, the NCA set up the new Combating Kleptocracy Cell (CKC), with a remit that includes the investigation of criminal sanctions evasion and high-end money laundering.

Important component

SARs are an important component of the information coming into the cell, and the UK Financial Intelligence Unit (UKFIU) – which receives, processes and assesses SARs on behalf of the NCA – now has a dedicated team to work as part of the CKC.

Under the SARs Reform Project, the UKFIU has undertaken a significant transformation since the last report with new methods of working and new teams. This has included an uplift in staff to over 150. Measures are in place to reach the target of 201 by the end of the next financial year, in turn driving increased analysis and engagement within the SARs regime.

Vince O’Brien, head of the UKFIU, said: “SARs are vital in the fight against money laundering, illicit finance and wider criminality. Major improvements to the UKFIU through the SARs Reform Project, including the establishment of dedicated analytical teams to support specific operational requirements such as those of the Combating Kleptocracy Cell, in addition to further enhancements rolling out over the next 24 months, will ensure that we maximise the intelligence value derived from SARs, driving greater impact on economic and other crime and helping to keep the UK public and businesses safe.”

*Read the full report

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