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Anti-money laundering regime comes under scrutiny

4 October 2005

Reports that highlight possible money laundering aren’t being utilised effectively by law enforcement agencies, according to a study by Matthew Fleming, Research Fellow at the UCL Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, which is published today.

The study, which was commissioned by the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales, and N. Ireland (ACPO), funded by the Home Office, and supported by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), confirms the persistence of certain shortcomings in the suspicious activity reporting regime and makes fifteen recommendations for improvement.

Members of the regulated sector—such as banks, building societies, lawyers and accountants—are required to file suspicious activity reports (SARs) when they have knowledge or suspicion of money laundering activity (or have reasonable grounds to know or suspect such activity). SARs are sent to the National Criminal Intelligence Service for processing, and are subsequently passed to law enforcement for action.

The number of reports received by NCIS has grown considerably in the last few years; 56,000 were received in 2002 and more than 154,000 in 2004. But the extent to which SARs are actually used by law enforcement agencies and the value of SARs in helping to reduce crime has remained unclear.

Mr Fleming was given unfettered access to the SARs-user community, including law enforcement/NCIS, government, and the private sector. Information was obtained from detailed meetings, sites visits and a survey of law enforcement agencies over four months earlier this year.

The study provides systematic information on the use and management of SARs, identifies gaps in information, and proposes how to bridge the gaps.

A copy of the report, ‘UK Law Enforcement Agency Use and Management of Suspicious Activity Reports: Towards Determining the Value of the Regime’ can be accessed by clicking on the link below (1) http://www.jdi.ucl.ac.uk/downloads/pdf/Fleming_LEA_Use_and_Mgmt_of_SARs_June2005.pdf

Mr Fleming says:

“This report is being taken very seriously by the government. The report’s key recommendation—that the regime should once and for all be assigned a true ‘owner’—has already been taken on board: the new Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) will take full ownership. And we know that other recommendations are being been adopted

“There's a real opportunity here to get the regime back on track. There’s no doubt that the launch of SOCA and the Lander Review (2) present excellent opportunities for government to address the issues raised in the research.”

Roger Aldridge, ACPO Lead on Asset Recovery who commissioned the research said,

“This is an important and useful piece of research. From the police force perspective we know we need to improve our use of SARs if we are going to be more effective at tackling money laundering. This report will help us to achieve that. We have already accepted those recommendations that affect ACPO and acted upon them. We look forward to the outcome of the SOCA review by Sir Stephen Lander in respect of the broader issues raised by this research.”

For further information, please contact:

Judith H Moore UCL Media Relations Manager Tel: +44 (0) 20 7679 7678 Mobile: +44 (0)77333 075 96 Email: judith.moore@ucl.ac.uk

Notes to editors

(1) The website of the Home Office is being refurbished and re-launched in the coming days. The report is currently available on the website of the JDI; it will also appear on the Home Office website, as planned, within the week.

(2) Sir Stephen Lander, Chair-Designate of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, has been asked by the Chancellor and the Home Secretary to undertake a review on how SOCA can make best use of SARs. The final report of the Lander Review is expected to be delivered in March 2006.

About the JDI

The UCL Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science (JDI) is the first in the world devoted specifically to reducing crime. It does this through teaching, research, public policy analysis and by the dissemination of evidence-based information on crime reduction. Our mission is to change crime policy and practice. The Institute plays a pivotal role in bringing together politicians, scientists, designers and those in the front line of fighting crime to examine patterns in crime, and to find practical methods to disrupt these patterns.