Britain launches FBI-style force to tackle organised crime

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's new crime-fighting agency starts work on Monday with the power to mobilise intelligence from multiple sources and direct police forces across the country to tackle drug gangs, corruption, cyber crime and child sex abuse.

The National Crime Agency, dubbed Britain's version of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by media, will consist of more than 4,000 officers and will take on many of the duties of its widely criticised predecessor, the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), while also having additional powers.

NCA Director General Keith Bristow also promised a new relationship with the private sector to combat white-collar crime, actively seeking bankers to work as unpaid "specials".

"There will be no one beyond the reach of law enforcement or beyond the reach of the NCA," Bristow told reporters at a briefing ahead of the agency's launch. "Those people involved in the most horrible activities can expect the most comprehensive and robust responses."

The NCA will have the first national intelligence hub, a national unit to tackle cyber crime, and will take the lead in coordinating the police response to cross-border drugs gangs, complex international fraud, and online child sex abusers.

The agency estimates there are some 37,000 individuals spread across 5,500 groups involved in organised crime in Britain, with the annual cost of fraud from such gangs amounting to almost 9 billion pounds.

Unlike the FBI, however, the NCA will not be involved in national security or counter-terrorism, although that might change in the future once it is established.

Prime Minister David Cameron's government decided to replace the SOCA shortly after coming to power in 2010.

Bristow said he wanted to establish a different relationship with the private sector to better understand areas of crime such as fraud that remain under-reported and under-recorded.

"Banks, for instance, are aware of fraud ... and for a variety of reasons may or may nor report that to law enforcement," said Bristow, a former police chief constable based in central England.

"There's a good example of where we need to work differently with the banks."

BANKING "SPECIALS"

The agency will also recruit NCA "specials" - similar to special constables who act as volunteer police officers - with skills in areas such as finance to help uncover how some criminals hide their assets.

"We will want people, for instance, who understand banking," said Bristow.

He said there had been no shortage of interest.

"We have got people queuing up outside the door. I think sometimes it's underplayed the level of energy that there is sat within the private sector to do good things for the public as well as to deliver for shareholders."

Britain introduced a tough law to clamp down on bribery in 2011 and Bristow said he expected this would be an important area for the NCA.

"It's a threat we are increasingly starting to understand and we have got a key role in ensuring that we develop that understanding and take appropriate, proportionate action," he said.

He played down suggestions the agency could take over the work of the Serious Fraud Office, which has come in for much criticism following massive blunders in some high-profile cases.

The NCA begins life without anyone to head its economic crime command, one of its four divisions, after Jeremy Outen, a former KPMG partner who was chosen for the role, quit for personal reasons earlier this year. (Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

As two of the most glamorous sides in the Indian T20 league, the focus of the match between Mumbai and Bangalore will invariably be on the middle-order… More »

BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srinivasan, says Manohar

BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srinivasan, says Manohar

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Pietersen ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Pietersen ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Beleaguered Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Beleaguered Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistani cricket authorities have launched an investigation after a number of current international stars played in exhibition matches in the United States… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have an emphatic 8-3 lead in the head-to-head with Punjab, with one game tied More »

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

A quality that defines Rajasthan and Hyderabad is consistency. Rajasthan was one among two teams to enjoy complete dominance at home last season. Hyderabad… More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

New-look RCB will play their first game of IPL-7 on Thursday. More »

IPL: News Line

IPL: News Line

A round-up of all the news from this season of the IPL. More »

Shane Watson issues moral warning

Shane Watson issues moral warning

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

Nepal players call off boycott

Nepal players call off boycott

Thaw in relations after formation of an advisory committee that would work in tandem with the Cricket Association of Nepal. More »