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BREXIT: Cameron's anti-corruption promises could be at risk, says expert

Out-Law News | 01 Jul 2016 | 4:26 pm | 2 min. read

Landmark anti-corruption policies put forward in recent months by the UK's outgoing prime minister could be at risk given his decision to resign following the referendum on EU membership, an expert has warned.

This is part of Out-Law's series of news and insights from Pinsent Masons experts on the impact of the UK's EU referendum. Watch our video on the issues facing businesses and sign up to receive our 'What next?' checklist.

However, the UK's existing ability to detect, investigate and prosecute bribery and other corporate crimes should not be affected, provided that law enforcement authorities continue to cooperate with their European partners, according to white collar crime expert Barry Vitou of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

Writing on his blog, thebriberyact.com, Vitou said that prime minister David Cameron's "close association" with policies such as a planned new criminal offence of failure to prevent economic crime meant that these were now "thrown into doubt".

"In May, on the day of the Global Anti-Corruption Summit, UK prime minister David Cameron announced plans for the biggest shake up in corporate criminal liability we have seen to date," he said.

"Cameron was closely associated with each of these plans and it is unclear what will happen to them, at least in the immediate future," he said.

Policies potentially at risk include the creation of a beneficial ownership register and the creation of a new 'anti-corruption co-ordination centre', as well as the new criminal offence, Vitou said.

In the immediate aftermath of the referendum vote, the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) announced that it would "find other mechanisms" with which to cooperate with European law enforcement agencies if the existing arrangements fell away as part of future trade negotiations.

"The NCA works with partners in over 150 countries because organised crime is not constrained by geographical or jurisdictional boundaries," said Lynne Owens, the NCA's director general.

"For now, ongoing operations against international crime threats continue as before. We will be working closely with government to understand what the implications of exit will be for us, and to plan the steps we need to take with our law enforcement partners to keep people in the UK safe," she said.

David Green, head of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), made similar comments at the C5 anti-corruption conference in London this week, in response to a question from Vitou. Similarly Martin Hewitt, vice-chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said that there was no reason why the UK's vote to leave the EU should affect law enforcement activity and international cooperation.

"Ahead of the EU referendum, we stated our need to work closely and at speed with European countries to keep people in the UK safe from organised crime, cyber attack, terrorism or violent offenders," he said, in a statement on the group's website.

"It is now for the government to negotiate the terms of our relationship with Europe but we will work with them to ensure we retain our ability to share intelligence, biometrics and other data at speed and to work with foreign police forces on linked investigations, enquiries and arrests," Hewitt said.