BusinessCompany NewsThe corridors of power.

The corridors of power.

The Treasury is still head-hunting an accountant ‘of the highest calibre and reputation’ to head up the government’s anti-money laundering and terrorist finance unit.

This demonstrates the importance chancellor Gordon Brown attaches to the crackdown on the financial resources of terrorist groups as part of the war against international terrorism.

The cutting off of funds is as vital – if not more – than apprehension of individual terrorists. Britain is at the forefront of this campaign and has asked all 183 member countries of the IMF committee to act to stem the flow of funds which could filter through to terrorists.

Insiders say Brown will not rush the appointment. He wants the right person: someone with an intimate knowledge of the modus operandi of money launderers and the bloodhound-type capacity to sniff them out.

And the reason for seeking a private sector accountant is to avoid appointing someone who would find it difficult to escape from the rigid mindset of a Whitehall bureaucrat.

They want someone not only in the highest grade of the profession, but an accountant with flair and drive – someone who can deliver knockout blows to those engaged in this nefarious practice. EU finance ministers have cleared the way for an agreement on Europe-wide anti-money laundering laws, which will prove invaluable. The terrible events of September 11 have put some urgency behind this move, which for months was bogged down with legal wrangling.

What is now going to have to be accepted is a system that may have to breach traditional professional secrecy which lawyers owe to their clients.

Now, lawyers will be required to report to authorities even the merest suspicions they may harbour their clients are engaged in this illicit activity.

The UK government is aware that no amount of military and diplomatic activity can be fully effective so long as cash is getting through to the terrorist networks.

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