Britain targets financial fraud with anti-corruption police unit

by Reuters
Thursday, 18 December 2014 14:58 GMT

Sample polymer five and ten GB pound banknotes are seen on display at the Bank of England in London September 10, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Ratcliffe/pool

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Britain's financial sector has been damaged by a succession of scandals

By William James

LONDON, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Britain is to set up a specialist police unit focused on corruption and bribery, aiming to bolster its defences against white-collar crime in the financial sector as part of a wider plan to stamp out fraudulent business practices.

Banks and other financial players account for about a tenth of the UK economy's output but the sector has been damaged by a succession of scandals, making it important for the government to show it is clamping down on wrongdoing.

The new unit will sit within the National Crime Agency (NCA), Britain's equivalent to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and will pull together experts from within the NCA and specialists from other government agencies.

"As host to one of the world's largest financial centres, the UK has a moral duty and global responsibility to ensure that corrupt officials and organised criminals do not abuse our systems," said Business Minister Matt Hancock.

The new unit, due to be established by April 2015, is intended to boost capacity to handle corruption cases.

The government said it would work in cooperation with the existing Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which has led the investigation and prosecution of serious or complex fraud and corruption, but did not say how this would happen in practice or how the responsibilities of the two bodies would be defined.

Earlier this month the SFO secured the conviction of three men in a 23 million pound ($36 million) biofuel investment scam. The organisation is also investigating a number of high-profile cases, such as the manipulation of interbank interest rates and bribery allegations linked to aero-engine maker Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc.

($1 = 0.6403 pounds) (Editing by David Holmes)

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