Economic Crime Bill Part 2: Return of the SFO

The second Economic Crime Bill of the year – the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill 2022 (not to be confused with the earlier Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act) – had its first reading in Parliament last week. 

Unlike Hollywood, it seems we do not have to wait a full year for a second instalment of this crime fighting saga.

Episode One was brought to our screens in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine; it created a register for overseas entities that hold UK property assets. It also made changes to the unexplained wealth order (UWO) and sanctions regimes. 

Episode Two continues the trend of – no spoilers here – transparency. The UK Government is determined to address what it estimates is £100bn of dirty money which is laundered (invested) in the UK every year. To do this there is to be a significant reform of how Companies House operates. Such reforms will include a process for Companies House to require all new and existing directors to verify their identity and the ability to reject false or fraudulent information. What a radical notion...

The Government also remains of the view that crypto assets are a currency of choice for the modern fraudster. It is therefore proposed that law enforcement is given greater powers to seize crypto assets that may associated with criminal activities. 

However a further shakeup is to expand the SFO's use of the Section 2 power for pre-investigative purposes. Currently the SFO can only compel the provision of material in a pre-investigation phase for suspected international bribery or corruption. The amendment will allow this power to be used for all SFO investigations. 

So will these new proposed powers and changes be the blockbuster that the authorities are hoping for? Or will it be straight to DVD? 


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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