This week the Met’s Central Specialist Crime and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have conducted a series of joint warrants and premises visits targeting corrupt Money Service Businesses (MSBs) in west London.
As part of the proactive week of action, carried out in partnership with the Financial Conduct Authority, a total of 12 warrants were executed at MSBs believed to be involved in laundering the proceeds of drug crime.
Breaches of money laundering regulations were identified along with evidence of some MSBs trading without being registered with HMRC. Penalties and other sanctions will now be pursued, along with any necessary criminal action.
Officers also attended 40 other MSBs as part of the operation to check compliance with money laundering regulations. MSB owners were provided with advice and information on how to protect their business from being used by criminals.
The activity formed part of a multi-agency approach to tackling the use of MSBs by organised criminals who use such businesses as a means of converting and moving criminal property out of the UK.
As part of this activity, officers also responded to intelligence across the capital. On Wednesday, 3 July police intervened in a cash handover in Central London. Officers arrested two men immediately and seized £100,000 cash in their possession which was intended to be processed via an unregistered MSB. The men have since been charged contrary to section 327 (1) and 334 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Gallagher of the Met’s Central Specialised Crime Command, said: “Criminally complicit MSBs act as a driver for serious and organised crime in London. Criminals involved in acquisitive crime and those controlling the supply of drugs in London’s communities use MSBs to launder the proceeds of crime which forms part of the causal link between this activity and violence on the streets of London.
“Drug dealing is inextricably linked with the violence we have seen on our streets. Activities of complicit MSBs undermine the international reputation of the UK’s regulated financial sector and tarnish the good name of reputable MSBs.
“This operation demonstrates that joint working between the MPS, HMRC, FCA and other law enforcement partners to address the issue of illegal MSBs and educate operators regarding their vulnerability to money laundering and to disrupt and scrutinise the activities of corrupt MSBs and the criminals who use or control them.
“We will now work to take action against those businesses that we have identified as potentially breaching money laundering regulations throughout our crack down this week. We anticipate this the first of many of this kind.”
Simon York, Director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, said: “This isn’t just about businesses ignoring the rules, it’s about businesses who are helping the most serious and harmful of organised criminals launder their criminal profits. This is why we are cracking down and why HMRC has taken this ground-breaking approach of working so closely with the MPS and FCA.
“MSBs need to understand that if they breach the money laundering regulations and ignore their legal obligations we will find them and stop them.
“Anyone with information about such crimes should call our Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”