Banks could face a new charge to help the Government combat international criminals laundering their cash through British shell companies, as the Treasury launches a new consultation.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is planning a new levy on firms that are subject to the Money Laundering Regulations.
It will “help fund new government action to tackle money laundering and ensure delivery of the reforms committed to in the Economic Crime Plan”, the Treasury said on Wednesday as part of the Budget.
It added: “These reforms will help safeguard the UK’s global reputation as a safe and transparent place to conduct business.”
Ava Lee, senior campaigner at Global Witness, said: “Today’s announcement that the Government will introduce a levy on banks to tackle money laundering is very welcome.”
The levy will come on top of the public funding that is already in place, and will be introduced after the Government has consulted on what form it should take.
The Treasury also promised to pump another £14 million into Companies House to help crack down on financial crime. Companies House had an income of just over £73 million last year.
Activists and experts have long warned that Companies House does not have the resources to verify the information that companies send to it, allowing international money to easily set up UK companies.
“The challenge that exists in the UK is that it is still very easy to incorporate corporate and complex structures which are currently not verified or monitored by government agencies such as Companies House,” said Willem Wellinghoff, the chief legal and compliance officer at Shieldpay, a high-value payment system.
“While this allows the UK to be a major player in the global market, unless the levy will be used to part fund such resources, it will be a challenge to establish credible deterrents against financial crime.”
Ms Lee added: “The money raised must be used to bring the real owners of UK properties, companies and trusts into the light, by reforming Companies House, introducing a register of the real owners of properties without delay, and giving law enforcement the resources they need to investigate and prosecute people who don’t play by the rules.”