• E-mail
  • Print
  • PDF

What is the UK Financial Intelligence Unit (UKFIU)?

The UK Financial Intelligence Unit (UKFIU) has national responsibility for receiving, analysing and disseminating financial intelligence submitted through the Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) Regime.

A SAR is a piece of information which alerts law enforcement that certain client/customer activity - e.g. the cash purchase of a high-value asset or a series of large out of character deposits - is in some way suspicious and might indicate money laundering or terrorist financing.

The UKFIU sits within SOCA and receives over 200,000 SARs a year. These are used by a wide variety of law enforcement bodies to help investigate all levels and types of criminal activity; from benefit fraud to international drug smuggling, human trafficking to terrorist financing. In many cases there will be no indication to the individual/organisation that submitted a SAR of what the related criminal activity is, as the techniques for money laundering are common across a range of crimes, and a single money launderer may work for many criminals or groups involved in different activities.

The most sensitive SARs and consent SARs are identified by UKFIU staff and disseminated to the appropriate end user organisations, but the remainder are made directly searchable to UK law enforcement bodies via a secure electronic connection.

European and international requirements

A national Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) is a requirement of European Union (EU) Regulation and international standards.

The Third EU Money Laundering Directive (3MLD), effective from December 2007, was drawn up to fully implement the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) Recommendations in the EU. The Directive requires member states to implement 3MLD in national legislation and establishes who is included in the regulated sector and the obligations of those individuals and businesses to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.

Article 21 of 3MLD stipulates that:

  • each EU Member State shall establish an FIU in order to effectively combat money laundering and terrorist financing
  • the FIU shall be established as a central national unit
  • the FIU shall be responsible for receiving (and to the extent permitted, requesting), analysing and disseminating to the competent authorities, disclosures of information which concern potential money laundering, potential terrorist financing or are required by national legislation or regulation
  • the FIU shall be provided with adequate resources in order to fulfil its tasks.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body which develops and promotes policies to counter money laundering and terrorist financing. It sets standards for national anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing programmes; evaluates the extent to which countries have implemented measures which meet those standards; and identifies and studies money laundering and terrorist financing methods and trends. FATF recommendations form an international benchmark for assessing the effectiveness of anti money laundering measures.

The FATF recommends that:

  • countries should establish a FIU that serves as a national centre for the receipt and analysis of: (a) suspicious transaction reports; and (b) other information relevant to money laundering, associated predicate offences and terrorist financing, and for the dissemination of the results of that analysis.
  • the FIU should be able to obtain additional information from reporting entities, and should have access on a timely basis to the financial, administrative and law enforcement information that it requires to undertake its functions properly.

The Egmont Group

The UKFIU is a fully active member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units - an international forum for FIUs to stimulate cooperation in the fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism. Membership allows the UKFIU to seek financial intelligence from other members in order to support SOCA operations and projects, and to act as the conduit to this resource for the wider UK law enforcement community.

Further information

For further information on the UKFIU and the SARs Regime, please see Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), the SARs Regime Annual Report 2012 and UKFIU Publications.