Corrupt accountants targeted by new serious crime bill

CORRUPT ACCOUNTANTS, lawyers and other professionals who assist organised criminal gangs have been targeted by a new bill announced by the Home Office.

The new Serious Crime Bill, outlined in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, will give courts the power to prosecute white-collar criminals under a new offence that targets people who “knowingly participate in an organised crime group”.

People convicted of the new offence will face up to five years’ imprisonment and a civil order that restricts their travel and associates.

Home Office minister Karen Bradley, said: “Nobody is above the law. But for too long corrupt lawyers, accountants and other professionals have tried to evade justice by hiding behind a veneer of respectability. This new offence sends out a clear message to those individuals: if you are helping to oil the wheels of organised crime, you will be prosecuted and face being jailed.”

Commenting on the new bill, Felicity Banks, ICAEW’s head of company law, said: “As existing anti-money laundering legislation makes it clear that concealing or facilitating the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property is an offence, it is important that any new legislation in this area clarifies – rather than blurs the lines – of what is acceptable behaviour.

“Anybody can call themselves an accountant, but where they are not members of a professional body there are limited ways of ensuring that they act legally or ethically.”

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