HM Revenue and Customs is claiming success in a co-ordinated international investigation into tax evasion and money laundering. Syedur Rahman of corporate crime solicitors Rahman Ravelli outlines the case and examines HMRC’s new approach to working with other nations’ agencies.
HM Revenue and Customs says it helped uncover £200M-worth of suspected tax evasion and money laundering in the UK as part of a series of co-ordinated investigations with agencies in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and the US.
The operation is the first major activity from the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement, known as the J5, which involves agencies from the five countries. It was established to tackle international tax crime and money laundering. The J5 brings together tax, cryptoasset and cybercrime experts to gather and share information about those who enable global tax evasion.
According to HMRC, the operation has gathered “significant information” in relation to a Central American financial institution whose products and services are believed to be facilitating tax evasion and money laundering worldwide. HMRC expects further criminal, civil and regulatory action to arise in each country. It suspects that a number of the institution’s UK clients are using it to conceal and transfer wealth anonymously to evade tax obligations and launder an estimated £200M.
HMRC visited several businesses in order to obtain information to assist its investigations. One person arrested in the UK on suspicion of cheating the public revenue and money laundering has been questioned and released pending further enquiries.
While the idea of J5 sounds exciting, the biggest challenges facing global investigations are co-ordination and timing. Difficulties can arise when enforcement agencies have to co-ordinate or take the lead in investigations that involve other countries. In some cases, any shortcomings or mistakes can make such investigations the subject of legitimate legal challenges by defence teams.