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Foreign government requests for fraud information up 62 per cent

Cyber-enabled fraud the largest single category of MLA requests received by the Home Office

3 March 2016

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The number of requests made by foreign governments for information about serious financial crimes increased 62 per cent last year, according to new research.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) consulted on a total of 55 mutual legal assistance (MLA) requests following referrals from the Home Office in 2015. Only 34 such requests, which typically involve a £1m plus fraud, were transferred to the SFO in 2014.

While the number of referrals is small in comparison to the total number of MLA requests received by the UK government, which totals 5,728, the figure has been increasing year-on-year and has more than doubled since 2012.

According to Thomson Reuters, cyber-enabled fraud represents the largest single category of MLA requests received by the Home Office, at around 20 per cent.

'Cyber-enabled fraud is one element in a much broader serious financial crime picture, which also includes non-cyber-related fraud, money laundering, corruption, bribery and conspiracy, together representing nearly 40 per cent of all MLA requests received by the Home Office,' said Morag Rea, head of the practical law business crime and Investigations at Thomson Reuters.

'Clearly, fraud is an expanding area, with the number of MLA requests from overseas authorities rising year-on-year. Lawyers in the UK will want to be aware of this trend and to keep on top of the law and procedure,' Rea added.

'Increasingly, companies which commit a serious financial crime, or which are subject to fraud from an internal or external party, will need business crime advice if they are asked to respond to a section 2 notice from the SFO - either as part of an MLA request, or in a UK investigation.'

Significant cross-border investigations into potential instances of financial crime, such as FOREX manipulation and LIBOR rigging, often involve the SFO working with foreign law enforcement.

In addition, the financial infrastructure of London makes it a tempting venue for attempted money laundering and other illicit transactions. In the majority of these instances a UK-based financial institution will be an unknowing conduit for criminal transactions.

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