The system of anti-money laundering (AML) supervision in the UK is woefully inadequate and structurally unsound, campaigners against corruption said today.
Billions of pounds of corrupt funds are entering the UK, but only a very small proportion of this is being detected and investigated by the authorities, according to a new report from Transparency International UK (TI-UK).
It said that of 22 supervisory bodies that oversee the key sectors - financial services, law, accountancy, property, luxury goods, and trust and company service providers - only one has above a low or unreported level of enforcement of the rules.
The campaigners called for the Government to strip the various private sector institutions and professional bodies of their AML supervisory roles and consider creating a single, well-resourced "super" supervisor to protect the UK against the problem.
Rachel Davies, TI-UK senior advocacy manager, said: "Given that the Prime Minister has rightly said that dirty cash is not welcome in the UK, it is appalling that a shambolic system is failing to stop that flow.
"Corrupt individuals are still finding the UK to be a safe haven for their ill-gotten gains and the vast majority of institutions that are meant to prevent that from happening are not up to the job. The average house price in central London is more than the total amount of fines dished out to those who laundered money through property last year.
"If the UK wants to permanently shut the door on dirty money, there must be a serious change in this flawed system. We are proposing that the patchwork of different supervisors be replaced by one single organisation, with enough resources to start the process of a consistent and effective approach to AML in the UK."
The report, Don't Look, Won't Find, discovered that in property, only 179 cases were deemed suspicious by estate agents in 2013/14, while just 15 suspicious cases were reported through art and auction houses.
The majority of sectors covered in the research were performing very badly in terms of identifying and reporting money laundering, and major problems have been identified in the quality, as well as the quantity, of reports coming out of the legal, accountancy and estate agency sectors, it said.