Tom Keatinge

The US Strategy on Countering Corruption promises a step change in its response to illicit finance. Can the UK government step up too?

There was a time in the not so distant past when the UK was genuinely a leader in the global response to illicit finance. Yes, the country has been a magnet for dirty money and its beneficiaries for decades as a result of policy decisions (for example, investor visas) and neglect (such as underinvestment in the policing response, the national Financial Intelligence Unit and suspicious activity reporting system). But awareness of the challenges posed by illicit finance has at least led the previous two prime ministers – supplemented by broad-based energy among the civil service, with some notable ministerial support – to attempt to show leadership. The 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit; the opening up of Companies House; the creation of the National Economic Crime Centre, a focused centre of excellence within the National Crime Agency; and the introduction of new legislation all held out the promise of action.