New regulations come into force in the UK on 1 March - the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and Money Laundering Regulations 2003 - which effectively mean
that individuals could be reported to the National Criminal Intelligence Service if they make a small mistake on their tax or VAT returns.
The new law requires accountants, tax advisers, banks, estate agents, and insolvency practitioners to inform the authorities if they even suspect
criminal activity. These professional advisers face a five-year jail term if they fail to do this.
They are also not permitted to directly or indirectly 'tip off' clients if they make a report - if they do, they again could face five years in
prison. This prevents trusted professional advisers from discussing errors with clients and effectively forces them to lie to their clients to
conceal any report made to NCIS.
There is no minimum amount - suspicion that a client has deliberately overstated an expenses claim by £10 would, under the new law, require a report
Some examples of where a professional adviser would have to report a client:
* a sub-ccontractor working for a builder steals a bag of cement to use on undeclared cash jobs he does at the weekends (two crimes to report).
* a client indicates that he is not prepared to comply with some health and safety requirement due to cost. If the non-compliance amounts to a crime
he will be in possession of criminal property, i.e. the money saved.
Although the regulations are aimed at starving terrorists and organised criminal gangs of funds, and most reasonable-minded people would support this,
it is absurd that there is no minimum reportable amount.
As a result, these rules are more suitable for a totalitarian regime than a mature democracy. They are also another example of how fundamental
terrorists are winning their war by eroding the freedoms of the people they loathe in western democracies.
[Edited on 19-2-2004 by Kano]