Private schools are being used to launder dirty money and will be targeted by the government’s new plan to combat organised crime, a security minister has said.
The new serious and organised crime strategy, published by the Home Office today, comes with a £48 million investment to enhance the law-enforcement response to the problem.
Ben Wallace, the minister for security and economic crime, said the government would target bodies such as public schools, football clubs and luxury car garages that may be facilitating billions of pounds worth of money laundering, but failing to report suspicious activity.
He told the Guardian: “We need to go after the people who have not played their part in hardening the environment and reporting.
“So the purveyors of luxury goods, the public schools, the sporting institutions who don’t ask many questions if suspicious people come along with cash or other activities, we will come down on them.”
He described such organisations as “the ones who pretend their hands aren't really dirty and profit from moving dirty money and knowingly conspire…they're cowards to pretend they're nothing really to do with it”.
Mr Wallace added: "They comfort themselves by being at wonderful events and not getting their hands dirty, but their hands are as dirty as the person trafficking the child that they're making their money from."
The £48m cash injection will be used to boost funding for the National Economic Crime Centre, invest in specially trained police fraud investigators, recruit more National Crime Agency officers who will focus on serious and organised crime, and provide extra investment for data and intelligence assessment capabilities.
However, one private school leader reacted angrily to the minister's claim that such schools are being used to launder dirty money.
"Outrageous, insulting, unsubstantiated," tweeted Mike Buchanan, executive director of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, and the former head of Ashford School in Kent.
Mr Buchanan said the minister had offered no evidence for his claim and urged him not to "spray damaging assertions randomly".
Outrageous, insulting, unsubstantiated opinion by @BWallaceMP on @BBCr4today that private schools are engaged in money laundering. Where is his evidence? None offered. I’ll happily work with him to raise awareness of issues but please don’t spray damaging assertions randomly.— Mike Buchanan (@HMCExecDirector) November 1, 2018
Julie Robinson, general secretary of the Independent Schools Council, said: “Schools are very aware of their duties under the existing money-laundering legislation and will respond fully to any changes in law or practice.
“Schools know they must raise Suspicious Activity Reports if they have any concerns over the provenance of the money they are receiving.”