A couple of days ago I received an interesting little update from the National Crime Agency, explaining their policy on publicising arrests. As regular readers may have gathered, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the sensibilities and hurt feelings of money launderers, but even I will agree that it is perhaps not quite cricket to name and shame someone simply because they have been arrested on suspicion of money laundering. (And yes, I do realise that the NCA does other things apart from investigate money laundering – but why they would bother, when ML is quite the most fascinating and important crime ever, is beyond me.) So it is both helpful to read the NCA policy, and intriguing to wonder why they have felt the need to publicise it just at this moment. (Come on: you’d be disappointed if I wasn’t always suspicious about these things.)
According to an NCA spokesman: “We consider publishing the details of arrests in every instance, and on a case by case basis, but it is not appropriate or practical to publicise every single one. Decisions involve multiple considerations, for example balancing transparency with the need to preserve operational integrity or protect vulnerable people. We also need to consider the right to a fair trial and the risk of jeopardising a prosecution in the event that charges are brought. An individual who has not been charged, and may still be released without charge, should reasonably expect to have their details made public only when law enforcement has the evidence to bring charges against them… We do have discretion to name on arrest but there must be a sound justification to do so, for example it is not uncommon for individuals to be named where there is a threat to life.”
It is something I have wrestled with myself – no mean physical feat, but when you are a one-person business, that will happen. On the Latest news page of my website (and on my @susangrossey Twitter feed) I try to put links to current money laundering stories. And I have had to decide my own cut-off point: do I links to stories about money laundering arrests, or only convictions, or only sentences? In the end, I decided on a compromise, and now I am happy to link to stories about people being charged with money laundering – on the “no smoke” premise. Also, I think that once someone has been charged, it is an accepted fact in the legal system – there is now a charge on record. Of course, if someone is later acquitted, I try to include that story as well, although it is rarer than you might imagine. I think that the prosecuting authorities – wary themselves of bad publicity – are particularly careful about having their evidential ducks in a row before even bringing a charge of money laundering.