The head of the Serious Fraud Office has said there must be no let-up in the way financial criminals are pursued after the UK leaves the European Union.
David Green told Sky News it is “absolutely crucial” that investigations into bribery and fraud continue after Brexit when, he says “we will welcome inward capital investment”.
For some, that prediction of a spike in overseas investment raises alarm over the prospect of the UK being used to launder money.
Mr Green said he expected the SFO to pursue growing allegations of money laundering against wealthy foreign nationals buying property and businesses in the UK, but that those investigations would depend on maintaining a working relationship with European investigators.
He told Sky News: “I am sure enforcement will continue, but other aspects – such as extradition, arrest warrants and investigation orders – will depend on the sort of co-operation that is presently framed within EU regulations.
“I am sure all that will be dealt with because it is in everyone’s interest that some kind of structure like that is maintained.”
Mr Green said that money laundering was “always a worry and a risk” but said his office “knows about money coming into this country”.
He said the SFO would be “interested in using new tools, such as unexplained wealth orders, and exercising those powers”.
But he said that “the biggest single hurdle” to catching foreign money launderers was proving that they had committed a crime in the first place, because that depended on support from the other country.
While he claimed that “progress is being made on that internationally”, Mr Green also said the process was “very frustrating” but added that “it is in everyone’s interest not to have dirty money around the place because it brings with it corruption and criminality”.
Image: A year ago, Rolls Royce agreed a £500m DPA – deferred prosecution agreement. File pic
Mr Green has been Director of the SFO since 2012, and is due to stand down from the job in April.
Under his tenure, the SFO has developed a reputation for being more aggressive in its pursuit of criminal wrong-doing.
He has also embraced the idea of using “deferred prosecution agreements”, a process that allows a company to avoid prosecution in return with meeting a range of conditions – typically paying a big fine and co-operating with an investigation.
A year ago, Rolls Royce agreed a £500m DPA, and several other companies have also signed up for DPAs in lieu of a protracted prosecution.
Others have tried to avoid prosecution by entering into long legal arguments and have declined to co-operate with Mr Green or his colleagues.
In our conversation, he issued a thinly-veiled warning that those companies would be pursued through the courts, rather than being offered a deal.
“I would hope that the DPA is now well known to lawyers and City firms,” said Mr Green.
“They know that they have to co-operate to be a candidate to get one.
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“It’s very important we maintain the integrity of the DPA. If a company has messed us around for three, four or five years, I can’t try to convince a judge that it’s in the interest of justice for them not to be prosecuted. I hope my successor will have a degree of consistency with the process.”
Mr Green will leave his office in April, having served a longer term of office than any of his predecessors. He said he was planning to take a break, and then “hawk myself around” in search of his new role.