§ Mr. Irvine
To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects to publish the report of the financial action task force on money laundering; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr Major
The Government welcome the report of the financial action task force which is published today. A copy of the report has been placed in the Library of the House.
The task force was established following the G7 Paris summit in July 1989 to review existing measures against money laundering and to recommend improvements. Experts from 15 countries (G7 countries, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland) and the EC Commission, the OECD, the IMF and the bank for international settlements contributed to the work of the task force, with the United Kingdom playing a leading role. The report has three main sections: an assessment of the extent and nature of the problem; a review of existing legal and administrative measures against money laundering; and 40 detailed recommendations for further action.
The report's recommendations encompass domestic measures implementing the United Nations Vienna convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, improvements in laws and administrative practice relating to institutions dealing with large amounts of cash, and strengthening international co-operation. While acknowledging that the recommendations have no formal legal status, the Government fully endorse them. The priority now is for their implementation in all participating countries. In the United Kingdom, the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 already makes drug money laundering an offence and gives the police and Customs and Excise strong enforcement powers.
Provisions included in the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990, which received Royal Assent on 5 April, will further strengthen these powers and allow the United Kingdom to ratify the United Nations convention. Further measures are also being considered to reinforce our defences against money laundering inside and outside the formal financial sector.
However, money laundering is an international problem which cannot be tackled by individual countries in isolation; the commitment by the major industrialised countries to strengthen international co-operation in the fight against money laundering is therefore all the more welcome. Our record is good and many of the areas of co-operation covered in the report are already covered by our bilateral agreements to trace, freeze and confiscate the 1012W proceeds of drug trafficking. So far agreements have been signed with 13 countries and negotiations are in progress with several others.