Data-led reforms unveiled to help Companies House clamp down on ‘criminals and kleptocrats’

New law will give greater powers for authorities to access information and seize digital currency

Credit: Mohamed Hassan/Pixabay

The government has unveiled proposed new laws that it claims will allow authorities to use data and digital technologies to clamp down on people registering UK businesses solely “as a front for crime or foreign kleptocrats”.

Introduced last week, the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill makes provisions to give the powers and capabilities of Companies House their “biggest upgrade in 170 years”, according to the government.

If and when the bill passes into law, the register of companies will be given “new powers to check, challenge and decline incorrect or fraudulent information”. Companies House will also be imbued with a bolstererd remit to conduct investigations and enforce standards, as part of which it will be able to “check data with public and private partners, as well as reporting suspicious activity to security agencies and law enforcement”.

Government also hopes to remove “red tape” in order to empower businesses “to share information to more proactively prevent and detect economic crime – including fraud and sanctions evasion”.

Law-enforcement agencies, meanwhile, will be given “greater powers to compel businesses to hand over information which could be related to money laundering or terrorist financing”.

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Legislative tweaks to the existing Proceeds of Crime Act are also intended to simplify and speed up the processes by which the National Crime Agency and other bodies can freeze or seize cryptocurrencies and other digital assets, which the government claimed are “increasingly used by organised criminals to launder profits from fraud, drugs and cybercrime”.

“The use of… digital currency has significantly increased in recent years, with the Metropolitan Police reporting a big rise in cryptocurrency seizures last year,” it added. “Strengthening powers in the Proceeds of Crime Act will modernise the legislation to ensure agencies can keep pace with the rapid technological change and prevent assets from funding further criminality.”

Business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said that the new law would help address “corrupt elites attempting to disguise their dodgy dealings”.

“This historic bill will equip Companies House and law enforcement with the tools they need to root out criminals attempting to hide their activities without burdening law-abiding companies with unnecessary bureaucracy. Above all, via strict enforcement measures, we are telling investors that the UK is open for legitimate business only.”

Home secretary Suella Braverman added: “The UK is no home for dirty money. The government has taken unprecedented action to prevent kleptocrats and organised criminals from abusing our open economy, and this bill will go even further. Through this bill, we are giving our law-enforcement agencies greater powers and intelligence capabilities to stay one step ahead of the criminals intent on keeping their corrupt assets out of reach.”


Sam Trendall

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