U.K. White-Collar Prosecutions Rise as Cybercrime Threat Grows

  • White collar crime cases rise for first time in five years
  • Cybercrime prosecutions increased 36 percent on year earlier

Maidenhead, UK

Photographer: Getty Images

The number of U.K. prosecutions for white-collar crime rose for the first time in five years in 2015, with cybercrime one of the key areas of growth, according to a law firm’s report.

There were 9,401 white-collar cases last year, up from 9,343 in 2014, according to Pinsent Masons, which obtained the data from the U.K. Ministry of Justice. Until 2015, prosecutions for white-collar offenses had fallen year-on-year since 2011 when 11,261 defendants faced charges. The number of cybercrime cases, while still small, grew 36 percent to 61 last year.

Action on white-collar crime has risen up the government agenda, spurred by the 2008 financial crisis and a growing recognition of the damage offenses such as money-laundering can have on London’s reputation as a global financial center. Tackling online offenses has become a particular priority after a number of attacks on large firms such as TalkTalk Telecom Group Plc last year.

“Any increase in prosecutions for economic crime represents a gain for the authorities and should be welcomed," said Barry Vitou, a lawyer at Pinsent Masons. “Cybercrime is a fast-growing threat and should remain a focus. The online capabilities of fraudsters are increasing and evolving all the time.”

A number of high-profile cases have thrust business crime into the mainstream media in recent times. Tom Hayes, the former UBS Group AG trader, was given an 11-year prison sentence for rigging the Libor benchmark last year, while Navinder Singh Sarao captured the public’s imagination when he was accused of making millions of dollars spoofing markets from his bedroom.

More than 600,000 incidents of fraud were reported to authorities in England and Wales last year, 4 percent more than the previous 12-month period, according to the Ministry of Justice data.

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