Home secretary David Blunkett unveiled details of the emergency Anti-Terrorist Bill with tough proposals to fight terrorist financing.
Among a package of measures, the secretary of state said that financial institutions which did not report suspicious transactions would be in breach of the law. The Bill also allows account monitoring and swift asset freezing.
Blunkett said he wanted to strike a balance between ‘respecting our fundamental civil liberties and ensuring that they are not exploited’. Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin welcomed the measures but warned against ‘hasty’ legislation.
The Bill is likely to be rushed through to complement military action taking place in Afghanistan following the attacks in the US on 11 September. It will be added to with separate measures in the Proceeds of Crime Bill, which was announced in November 2000 and re-introduced in June when Labour was re-elected.
Chancellor Gordon Brown followed Blunkett to the despatch box where he outlined the steps the Treasury would be taking against terrorist financing.
He announced plans to set up a new terrorist finance unit in conjunction with the National Criminal Intelligence Service. He also said that a new taskforce would ‘bring into the anti-terrorism effort the best of academic, financial and commercial expertise using the best skill of forensic accountancy in tracking assets’.
Brown added that Customs & Excise and the Inland Revenue would be allowed to co-operate and share information more effectively with the police. Bureaux de change will face a new supervisory regime to prevent money being laundered through them.
The chancellor told the Commons that so far assets totalling £63m has been frozen.
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