Suspicious Activity Reports are a crucial part of UK law enforcement and are a legal obligation for those working in the regulated sector.
Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) are disclosures to UK law enforcement concerning knowledge or suspicion, or reasonable grounds for suspicion, of money laundering. They are submitted to, and assessed by, the National Crime Agency (NCA).
The Proceeds of Crime Act (2002) (POCA) is the primary legislation. Sections 327 - 329 of the Act set out the main offences of money laundering.
Sections 330 to 332 cover the legal obligation to make a disclosure. There are some differences, depending on whether you are the Nominated Officer or not, and whether you work inside or outside the regulated sector.
The UK Money Laundering Regulations 2017 also oblige relevant firms to appoint a nominated officer who must consider internal reports of suspicion. (Regulation 21). Section 333 of POCA also details the offence of tipping off.
Types of Suspicious Activity Report
There are two types of SAR:
- a general SAR must be submitted where you know there has been or have reasonable grounds to suspect money laundering.
- a Defence Against Money Laundering (DAML) SAR should be submitted in the same circumstances as above, but where you are looking to complete an action which may amount to a money laundering offence. A common example is where funds are already in the firm's account and the firm then become suspicious and wish to return the funds. If the funds are criminal property, transferring them may amount to a money laundering offence.
After making a Suspicious Activity Report, you must not make your client aware of this.
Submitting a SAR
To submit a SAR or a DAML SAR, you must use the NCA's online SAR submission portal.
We have partnered with the National Crime Agency to create a webinar to improve the quality of submissions that the NCA receive.
This webinar is largely focused on submitting high-quality DAML SARs, but will help in submitting any type of Suspicious Activity Report.
The National Crime Agency have a dedicated homepage for Suspicious Activity Reports, which contains links to further guidance documents, Frequently Asked Questions and the 'SARs in Action' magazine - detailing the good work which is brought about as result of the Suspicious Activity Reports submitted by professional like you.
From 1 January 2023, the UKFIU will go live with a new dedicated helpline for SAR Confidentiality breaches. The helpline is for reporting sectors to raise any concerns about inappropriate use of SARs or breaches of SAR confidentiality only. The new contact number is 0207 238 1860 and is a 24-hour line available from Monday to Sunday.
Further guidance is also frequently issued by the UK Financial Intelligence Unit (UKFIU) and can be accessed via their Publications Library which includes:
- Introduction to Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs)
- Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) Glossary Codes and Reporting Routes
- 2022 SARs Annual Report
- Submitting a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) within the Regulated Sector