‘No terror checks’ on directors
Thirteen suspected terrorists and thousands of alleged money-launderers are
registered directors of UK companies, a BBC investigation has learned.
File On 4 has also been told that a UK branch of a bank suspected of
channelling funds to an organisation classed as terrorist by the US and
other governments, has not been investigated by the UK’s financial watchdog.
The boss of a company which helps banks vet their customers for money
laundering and terrorism, says it is “horrifying” that Companies House does
not check company directors for terror or organised crime links.
But a statement from the Treasury told the BBC it is satisfied that
Companies House is not open to “terrorist exploitation. ”
The programme found several loopholes which could assist those wishing to
The Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, told the BBC, “I hope no-one in
government is complacent, but it’s very important we intensify our efforts.”
Mr Hague has called for the government to act against Iranian banks in
London, including Bank Saderat, which was accused by the US government of
acting as a conduit for £30m in funds for Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamist
But File on 4 has discovered that nearly two years since the US authorities
imposed sanctions on the bank, the UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA)
has yet to send inspectors to investigate the allegations.
This was despite an invitation from Bank Saderat, one of the banks accused
of channelling funds to Hezbollah, and strenuously denies the allegations
and wants to clear its name. It says that its audit reports confirm its
The FSA refused to comment on why it had not interviewed Bank Saderat and
added that such decisions were made on a case by case basis.
Meanwhile Companies House, which registers all UK based companies, is
accused of making no checks on the criminal or terrorist links of company
directors or secretaries, by World-Check, a company that runs databases for
banks and other financial institutions of alleged terrorists and money
launderers, cross-checked its lists against the register of company
The company found that thousands of money launderers and 13 alleged
terrorists were involved in running UK companies.
Its CEO David Leppan, told the BBC: “As long as you’re not a disqualified
director you’re perfectly entitled under current legislation and current
guidelines to be a director of a UK company, which is a horrifying thought.”
The Treasury, which refused to be interviewed, said it expected banks to
check on directors’ criminal links and so there was no need for this
government agency to do so.
It added: “We have reviewed whether Companies House is open to terrorist
exploitation, and concluded that Companies House rules do not pose any
vulnerability of terrorist abuse of the financial system.”
Britain’s record on the issue was among the best in the world, it said.
But the biggest concern, according to some experts, is the fact that a new
generation of young, home-grown, computer-literate jihadis is growing up.
Not only can they use the internet to spread their message, but they have
now begun to use online fraud to fund their operations.
Det Con Mike Harris of Lothian and Borders Police, who recently investigated
a £6m international credit card fraud with possible terrorist links, told
the BBC, fraudsters had obtained credit cards in the US using bogus details.
The cards were “hammered” for as much money and goods as possible, causing
the banks to close them when they could not find the owners.
But the cards were then shipped to the UK where “as long as they kept within
the floor limit in uk the cards could continue to be used.”
Det Con Harris said: “We had funds going to Pakistan, we had funds going out
of the country to the near continent, we had funds that were just toing and
froing to the states again.
“It was picked up by one individual at American Express who became aware of
one individual several times, who contacted several different police forces
across the UK, trying to get them interested in it.”
He added: “To use a old adage, fraud is not sexy, it takes a lot to look
beyond what fraud is actually there for.
“The fraud is used for terrorism or people trafficking, and a lot of the
time that is overlooked by the hierarchy in police and perhaps in