Former MI5 adviser slams offshore bank secrecy rule>

David Bickford, a former legal adviser to MI5 and MI6, has called on the Government to end the “shield of sovereignty and offshore bank secrecy” behind which money launderers hide.

Bickford, who drafted Commonwealth anti-money laundering legislation and currently runs his own legal consultancy, was speaking at a workshop on combating financial crime which was hosted by Titmuss Sainer Dechert.

He praised the Home Secretary for setting up a new body, the National Police Agency, to investigate organised crime, but said that it should be given proper administrative and legal teeth.

He said the existing body, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, had achieved only one conviction for money laundering in its years of operation because it had been underfunded and had insufficient powers.

Pointing out that the US was now seriously looking at imposing sanctions on dependent offshore centres which maintained bank secrecy, he said the UK had done nothing to remove bank secrecy from its offshore dependencies, in which at least one fifth of the world's laundered criminal assets lay.

“We have a choice,” he said, “we can either continue with the sham of ineffective and underfunded international law enforcement and with the shield of sovereignty and offshore bank secrecy behind which the criminals hide.

“Or we can initiate a progressive programme of administrative and legal reform and international co-operation.”