HL Deb 17 February 2003 vol 644 cc148-9WA
Lord Greaves

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What statute-based rules now apply to the surveillance and reporting of activity in bank accounts belonging to individuals and to businesses; when the present rules were introduced; whether the surveillance and reporting of activity in bank accounts differs according to categories of people and businesses and assessed degrees of fraud and other offences; and whether the rules or practices in relation to Muslim individuals and Muslim-owned businesses, or those from predominantly Muslim countries, are in any ways different from those which apply to individuals and businesses in general. [HL1379]

Lord Filkin

Anti-money-laundering controls comprise a mixture of legal requirements and regulatory arrangements. The main primary and secondary legislation currently in force are the Drug Trafficking Act 1994, the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the Money Laundering Regulations (1993 and 2001). The anti-money laundering regime will be strengthened when Part 7 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 comes into force on 24 February. This Act will require employees in the regulated financial sector to report transactions where they know, suspect or have reasonable grounds to know or suspect that a person is engaged in money laundering.

In addition, the Terrorism Act 2000 provides that it is an offence for a person who in the course of a trade, profession, business or employment believes or suspects that a person has committed a terrorist fund-raising offence and does not disclose it to a constable. The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 strengthened this provision so that it made it an offence for a regulated financial institution not to report a transaction where an employee "had reasonable grounds to suspect" it was the proceeds of, or intended for use in, a terrorist crime.

None of this legislation discriminates between countries or individuals on religious, ethnic or cultural grounds.

The only countries which are treated any differently in the above arrangements are the 15 identified by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (the international standard setting organisation) as failing to comply with the international fight against money laundering. Financial institutions have a duty to pay attention to the list of these countries when considering whether a transaction is suspicious. The countries in question are: Burma, the Cook Islands, Egypt, Grenada, Guatemala, Indonesia, Nauru, Nigeria. Philippines, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Ukraine.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, constables, customs officers and financial investigators accredited under the Act will also be able to apply for court orders to obtain information on bank accounts and to monitor transaction details. Such powers are already in place in respect of terrorist funding. Police and Customs officers may also use powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to obtain financial information in their investigation of acquisitive offences.

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