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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Banking on trouble
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Money Laundering Control, Volume 11, Issue 3
For the last 26 years, Jesus College – one of the older colleges with the University of Cambridge – has hosted a week long symposium on issues relating to the prevention and control of economic crime. Originally the symposium was set up by those in governmental agencies concerned to create and foster the sort of structures and network that now exists, to develop and deploy financial intelligence. Of course, back in the early 1980s, well before the advent of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) this function was found either in conventional intelligence services or specialised units, often in central banks concerned with exchange control and to a lesser extent economic sanctions – mainly against South Africa. Recognising the novelty of focusing on financial intelligence as a tool in the interdiction of economically motivated crime it was thought a good idea to base the programme in world class university and seek the support of other academic and international organisations.
In the early days the annual Cambridge Symposium was relatively small, in most years with just over 200 delegates. However, many of these held key positions in their governments and organisations and over the years played an increasingly important role in extolling the practical virtue of financial intelligence and the importance of developing expertise within dedicated FIUs and the creation of networks, such as that now operated under Egmont. It was always recognised that such initiatives cannot succeed in a vacuum. Consequently, from the start the private sector has always played a significant role in the programme. Furthermore, it is important that international coverage is as comprehensive as possible. Thus, it is only in Cambridge that you will find senior officers of the relevant Chinese agencies working along side officials of the Ministry of Justice’s Investigation Bureau in Taiwan. The non-governmental and academic setting of Cambridge has facilitated a range and level of co-operation second to none.
Our 26th programme takes place from the 31 August to 7 September 2008. The overarching title is “Banking on trouble,” a topical issue if there was ever one! However, the well over 300 speakers from some 84 different countries will, as in previous years, focus on a wide variety of issues ranging from the impact of new asset-related procedures for combating serious corruption on banks and other financial institutions, to the penetration of the financial sector by organised crime. The symposium has never been a conference – speakers are not encouraged to make set piece presentations, but to engage with the 800 or so participants through a variety of opportunities, ranging from plenary lectures to small workshops. The speakers range across a very broad spectrum of those with practical and topical knowledge of the issues. However, there are also many who are at a policy and legislative levels. Indeed, last year some 30 ambassadors participated in the deliberations. The symposium is organised on a non-profit making basis and has over the last few years broken even only with the generous support of Jesus College and one or two other organisations. Its strength is that it is certainly not one of the flood of commercial conferences.
While the level of support from around the world is startling, it has always been a matter of concern that within the UK the level of interest appears if anything, in certain respects, to be in decline. At the top levels of government, this is not so, and as in previous years this year’s programme will have a number of senior cabinet and other UK ministers. Where interest has always been limited, other than in regard to invitations to dinner, is in regard to the academy and with the notable exceptions of the City of London Police and the Financial Services Authority, those agencies and organisations that one would think have a direct interest in the subject matter under discussion. Indeed, it is always a matter of comment that senior officials will travel half way round the world to discuss, for example, Sir Callum McCarthy’s (Chairman of the FSA) statement that British financial institutions are being infiltrated by the mafia and other criminals, and there appears to be minimal interest, outside the City of London Police, within Britain! The academy is no better, indeed, the Institute of Criminology in Cambridge went on record a few years ago as saying it is not interested in economic crime! At a time when the US Securities and Exchange Commission is being investigated by the US Congress because the fines and penalties fell last year to a mere £810 million – we need to consider just how committed – as a country, we are to protecting the integrity of our financial system. Well there you have it!