Earlier this week, the head of the National Crime Agency, Keith Bristow, announced that his agency had entered into an information-sharing agreement with the ten largest British banks. I have tried without success to find an official press release on the NCA website, but taking as my source an article in the Evening Standard and another in the Guardian, it seems that:
- If the NCA receives a SAR from “another institution” (ES article), it will contact the ten banks concerned and they will pass on “account information” (ES article again) about the subject of the SAR – I’m not sure if the SAR-submitting institution has to be one of the ten banks party to the agreement or not
- The legal powers governing the new agreement are contained in Schedule 7 to the Crime and Courts Act 2013
- According to the ES, this Schedule gives banks (and other organisations) the legal right to disclose otherwise confidential information to the NCA to help it carry out its tasks (including the investigation of money laundering) – in other words, they can hand over the information without a court order
- This month heralds the start of a year-long pilot of the scheme.
As the ES article says, “both the NCA and the banks expect to face legal challenges as a result”. I should cocoa.
I am still deciding how I feel about this (not that it matters, of course, but these blog posts tend to contain my view on something or other). While I have a dither (I tend to support information-sharing in the battle against money laundering, but I’m wary of giving those who hate AML such good ammunition as seeing banks – not in great favour at the moment – being able to bypass the courts in deciding what information to share….), please do share your views, comments and observations. And if any of you is better at reading (well, deciphering) legislation than I am, I would be grateful if you could read that Schedule 7 and tell us how it works – I can’t seem to pinpoint quite where it says that the NCA can in effect reveal to ten banks that a SAR has been made, when SARs are supposed to be confidential.