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Major plans to crack down on money mules

Major plans to crack down on money mules
Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The Government has doubled down on its efforts to disrupt money mule activity and will offer additional support to victims.

A new action plan will include a newly funded post at The Children’s Society to raise awareness of child financial exploitation, and will also step up joint working to identify complicit mules through the sharing of intelligence.

A money mule is someone who moves and hides illegally gained money on behalf of criminals, including drug dealers, human traffickers and fraudsters.

Cifas estimates that there were 37,000 bank accounts that demonstrated behaviour associated with muling in 2023. According to estimates from the National Crime Agency (NCA), approximately £10bn of illegal money is laundered each year in the UK.

According to Government figures, about 23% of money mules are under 21, and 65% are under 30. They are often groomed by criminal gangs, who offer them the prospect of making easy money. Once they are in the system, the gangs will then coerce them into committing further offending, including through blackmail, debt bondage and sextortion.

The Government is funding a new ‘financial exploitation lead’ at The Children’s Society, which will spearhead a growing movement to educate those on the front line, including bank employees, teachers and the police.

Tom Tugendhat, security minister, said: “I am determined to prevent heinous criminals who exploit our children and profit from it, and it is paramount we stop this vicious cycle.

“The Children’s Society’s invaluable work will protect victims who are being exploited, while our wider action plan will ensure these evil criminals face the full force of the law.”

Financial exploitation is a form of abuse that can have a detrimental, long-term impact. In some cases, for example, vulnerable people have had difficulty opening bank accounts and received criminal charges.

The Government recognises these children as victims and, through the work of The Children’s Society, is raising awareness to help safeguard vulnerable people and ensure victims are able to rebuild their lives.

Use of ‘expertise of frontline professionals’

The NCA is further educating young people, parents and education professionals, which will help to raise awareness of money muling and the strategies used by criminals to recruit potential money mules.

Katie Darlington, financial exploitation lead at The Children’s Society, said: “We’re working to better identify and tackle child financial exploitation, a growing harm that’s part of wider work on tackling child abuse. Such exploitation can inflict real trauma on children caught up in it and they need our help, not blame.

“With expertise of frontline professionals such as teachers, youth workers and police officers alongside the knowledge of the bank sector, and most importantly by listening to children and young people themselves, our approach will make sure this work is driven by the insights and experiences of the young people most affected.”

To further enhance co-operation between operational partners in this space, the City of London Police will establish a new intelligence unit to improve the police response to money mules and laundering money gained through fraud. This new unit will target money mule herders specifically, and feed intelligence into the regional organised crime unit (ROCU).

Related: Warning: Money launderers targeting under-30s as ‘money mules’