Britain leaving the European Union (EU) will heighten the risk of UK firms becoming involved in trade-based money laundering (TBML) according the agency that leads the country’s fight against serious and organised crime.

However, the National Crime Agency (NCA) says the impact of Britain leaving the EU – often referred to as Brexit – may provide some beneficial impacts in the fight against trade-based financial crime.

Corrupt markets

The NCA says in its recently published 2018 National Strategic Assessment that criminals engaged in TBML will be looking to take advantage of increasingly varying customs arrangements and border controls that will apply to UK firms as Britain agrees new trading arrangements with countries across the world.

“Criminals are not constrained by geographical or jurisdictional boundaries and are inherently opportunistic. We expect that many will strive to take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit might present, for example from the design and implementation of a new UK customs system,” according to the assessment.

The UK leaving the EU would also present increased challenges for EU and UK law enforcement in locating and extraditing international fugitives if the UK were to lose enforcement or intelligence sharing tools.

Positive impacts

But there may be one positive impact when it comes to fighting trade-based financial crime.

“Some of the impacts of Brexit have the potential to work in favour of law enforcement, including greater discretion over the movement of goods and people,” the assessment says.

TBML focused firms

Regardless of Brexit, the annual assessment points out that almost any kind of goods, service or sector can be used for TBML and says criminal funds from known jurisdictions of money laundering risk, including jurisdictions with a high risk of bribery and corruption, are being invested in UK businesses.

Businesses dealing in high value items, such as gems and precious metals, have been complicit in laundering criminal funds, the assessment notes.

The NCA’s National Strategic Assessment can be found here.