National Risk Assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing in the UK

Treasury written statement – made on 17th December 2020.

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Photo of John Glen John Glen Minister of State (Treasury) (City), The Economic Secretary to the Treasury

The UK’s status as a global financial centre, our openness to trade and investment, and the ease of doing business here are all vital for our prosperity. These remarkable strengths also make us vulnerable to the risk of illicit financial flows from money laundering and terrorist financing. The Government is committed to tackling these risks which undermine our economy and society and enable those who wish us harm to fund their activities.

Today, the Treasury and the Home Office are jointly publishing the UK’s third National Risk Assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing (NRA). This assessment updates the findings of the second NRA to take account of new information and developments that have emerged since its publication in 2017. The report has also been laid in Parliament.

The key findings of the 2020 NRA are as follows:

  • The traditional high-risk areas of money laundering remain, including financial services, money service businesses (MSBs), and cash. However, new methods continue to emerge within these, as criminals adapt to increased restrictions and exploit vulnerabilities in different sectors and emerging technology.
  • The cryptoasset ecosystem has developed and expanded considerably in the last three years, leading to increased risk of money laundering.
  • The ability to conceal the beneficial owners make the art market attractive for money laundering, and art market participants have been assessed as posing a high-risk of money laundering.
  • Professional services remain attractive to criminals as a means to support laundering the proceeds of crime, through the creation and operation of corporate structures, the investment and transfer funds to disguise their origin, and through lending layers of legitimacy to their operations.
  • The UK’s terrorist financing threat continues to involve low levels of funds being raised by UK individuals for the purpose of lifestyle spending and low sophistication attacks.

Since 2017, the UK’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regime has undergone review by the Financial Action Task Force. The UK achieved one of the best ratings of any country assessed so far in this round of evaluations, outperforming other states who are at the forefront of tackling money laundering and terrorism financing. However, no country can afford to be complacent, and there remain vulnerabilities that we must work to address.

Since the 2017 NRA, the Government has continued to take action to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. We have built on the success of the economic crime public-private partnership through the inception of the Economic Crime Strategic Board and the publication of the Economic Crime Plan in 2019. We have also created the National Economic Crime Centre, and the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision, both of which have helped to further strengthen and coordinate our response to money laundering. The Government is also bringing forward plans to further strengthen corporate transparency through reforms to Companies House and the register of companies.

The UK will look to remain a leader in the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, and we will continue to revise and reform our response to economic crime as new risks and methodologies emerge. The publication of the third NRA today is an important step in this fight, as it provides a critical component of continued partnership and prioritisation between government, law enforcement, supervisors and the private sector.