Bob Wigley welcome speech at the Economic Crime Congress


With increasing numbers of high-profile data breaches and a third of reported crimes being related to fraud1, tackling economic crime has never been higher on the industry's agenda. 

The banking and finance sector has been working tirelessly to prevent these crimes, and successfully prevented the loss of over £800 million in the first half of last year2.

We are incredibly proud of our close relationship and collaborations with the government, law enforcement, our members and other financial institutions to tackle these crimes, which Katy previously mentioned.

Although the industry is doing fantastic work, criminals are becoming more sophisticated in their methods and it can be difficult to keep pace. We will need to innovate in the fight against economic crime, because if we do not, we can be sure that the criminals will stay one step ahead.

Criminals see that committing these crimes carries low risk and a very high reward. They can steal, scam and launder money from anywhere in the world - and they are doing so, to sums of around £190 billion each year3
Aside from the immense emotional and potential financial damage to individuals and families who may have lost pensions or life savings, there is a wider implication here about the scale of damage caused which goes beyond the average victim and crosses into wider society. 

To get to the root of preventing economic crime, we must understand the real harm it causes and take it seriously, especially when the funds from fraud and the proceeds of money laundering are used to support terrorism, human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Money laundering is increasingly becoming an international crime committed by organised groups which deal in drugs, people smuggling and more.

I needn't remind you of the tragedy just a few months ago in which 39 migrants lost their lives while being smuggled across borders in a refrigerated lorry. Their families estimated they paid £30,000 each for their journey. If the estimation is correct, smugglers earned over £1 million from this disaster. 

The link between the monetary cost of these crimes and cost to human life is clear. 

The money earned from crimes such as this must be laundered through the system - enabling these dangerous and sometimes fatal activities. It is so prevalent, that the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime estimates that two to five per cent of global GDP is laundered each year4

On a more local level, money laundering is linked to the increasing issue of drug dealing and smuggling across county lines in the UK. Typical potential victims involved with county lines drug gangs are young males aged 15 to 175. They can be forced in to begging, acquisitive crime, and violence. 

Perhaps it's no coincidence that the number of homicides hit a ten-year high last year due to a surge in knife crime and gang-related killings. 

This may seem far removed from the white-collar activity everyone pictures when we say ?economic crime?. But we need to think about this more deeply because there are connections and the threat is growing in volume, complexity and scale.

Increasingly, organised criminal groups employ tactics which use technological developments to manipulate their targets.

The UK had the highest amount of data records stolen in Europe in 20186 despite the introduction of GDPR that year. Cyber attacks allow criminals access to huge sources of information and can lead directly to fraud losses including card fraud, or be used for social engineering victims to enable other scams. While technology provides clear benefits, it also presents opportunities to be exploited. 

But this is not a losing battle. We can use technology to stop crime before it happens. Investing in advanced security systems can protect customers, while AI can be used to detect fraudulent patterns and verify people's identity. 

We know what we need to do as an industry to continue our good work. We have forged strategic partnerships across the public and private sector to tackle these crimes, and we are stepping up the fight. 

Partnerships such as the Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Taskforce which is housed in the National Economic Crime Centre in the NCA and brings together law enforcement and the financial sector to exchange and analyse information on money laundering and broader economic crime threats.

In the financial year 2018 to 19, the work of the Taskforce lead to 48 arrests and the seizure of over £23 million in illicit funds. 

We now have a majority government that has the chance to govern. We cannot stand in 2020 saying we are planning to act; we need action from everyone. Now.

We need the cooperation of other industries to tackle the complexity of the task at hand. Both regulated and un-regulated industries need to take part because fraud, bribery and corruption happens across all sectors.

Technology firms including social media must ensure their platforms are not used by criminals to commit crimes such as romance scams and identity fraud.

Service providers such as the retail and transport industries must ensure customer data is safe from cyber attacks. All of these sectors must pull their weight in terms of investment - the banking industry spends over £5 billion a year preventing fraud.

And regulated industries such as legal services and real estate must ensure they go further in what is legally required of them to identify money laundering in their businesses, and address the totally inadequate number of SARs their industries file. 

Additionally, our police force cannot currently cope with the number of investigations it receives. We need them to be equipped to deal with this growing and destructive crime because victims are not receiving the level of police service they deserve. 

More money from the government is needed to provide law enforcement with the resources, skills and capabilities to investigate, prosecute and prevent fraud. Boris Johnson promised 20,000 new police officers for our country, I want to ask how many will be trained in fraud prevention? Because our industry stands ready to help.  

We have a number of representatives here today from business, law enforcement, regulators and more. Please do speak to them and share with them why this call to action is necessary and urgent. 

The key topics for today's event are some of our most pressing issues: anti-money laundering, financial sanctions, fraud prevention, and anti-bribery and corruption. Our speakers will be sharing their considerable expertise, I hope you find it both educational and thought-provoking. 

We also have a fantastic range of exhibitors and sponsors here, so please do speak to them. And please network with one another too: make introductions and start conversations, for it is through the collaborative actions of all of us here today that we can help defeat economic crime.

Thank you

Area of expertise:

Notes to editor

<p><sup>1 </sup>Crime Survey for England and Wales<br /><sup>2 </sup>UK Finance Half Year Fraud Report: <a href="… /><sup>3 </sup>National Crime Agency: <a href="… /><sup>4 </sup>United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime: <a href="">htt… /><sup>5 </sup>National Crime Agency: National Strategic Assessment<br /><sup>6 </sup>Thales data threat report</p>