Whether you are making your first suspicious activity report (SAR) or your 100th, providing the correct information will ensure that it is processed quickly and can be used most effectively.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid having your SARs returned and help the National Crime Agency (NCA) do its job.
Ways to submit a SAR
The simplest way of submitting a SAR is via the NCA's SAR Online system. If you have not yet used SAR Online, you need to register your details and activate your account. Follow the steps on the NCA website to gain access to SAR Online. The NCA has issued user guidance to help you navigate your way through the system and fill in the SAR.
Manual submission of SARs is also possible but will take longer than online submission, and you will not receive any acknowledgment of SARs sent this way. The NCA has produced several preferred forms which you can download from its website if you intend to make your report on paper.
Are you requesting consent?
‘Consent’ is what you are seeking when you submit an authorised disclosure under Part 7 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA). You only need to seek consent if you know or suspect that you will be dealing in some way with criminal property that may amount to an offence under sections 327, 328 or 329 of POCA (a prohibited act). If you are making a report about someone else's suspected money laundering, you do not need consent. In this case you will be making what is known as a required disclosure.
You will be able to use the NCA’s consent as a defence to a principal money laundering offence, if necessary. This is why the term ‘consent’ has in recent years been used by the NCA alongside the term ‘Defence Against Money Laundering’ (DAML). You may see both terms used in materials referring to consent/DAML SARs.
If you need consent, make sure you tick the consent box.
Where you have submitted an authorised disclosure, POCA provides that the NCA will have seven working days to decide on consent, starting from the working day after you file your report. If the NCA does not reply within this notice period, the NCA is deemed to have consented. If it refuses consent within the notice period, a moratorium period of 31 days will begin, during which the NCA can gather evidence and decide whether further action, such as a restraint of funds, should take place. Amendments to POCA introduced by the Criminal Finances Act 2017 now allow a senior law enforcement officer to apply to the court for an extension of this moratorium period for up to 186 days.
If you need to engage in the prohibited act before either the notice period or the moratorium period, include information about those deadlines. This will help the NCA and law enforcement agencies to prioritise matters as they consider whether refusing consent would make it more difficult to trace the assets or would put someone at risk.
For further information on authorised disclosures or DAML SARs, see the DAML FAQs on the NCA's website.
Make sure you include the following information where you have it:
- full name and other names the subject is known by
- if the subject is a legal entity, details such as company registration number, VAT number, business type
- addresses including post codes
- date of birth
- the subject's occupation
- additional information, such as phone numbers and passport or driving licence numbers
Where these details are not known to you, only enter the word 'UNKNOWN' rather than symbols such as question marks, or other words.
Full details help the NCA to quickly identify whether your client is a person of interest and to fill intelligence gaps, for example on new aliases.
Reason for suspicion – free text field
The narrative section of the report is where you give a concise and clear explanation of the reason(s) for your knowledge or suspicion.
It may be enough to explain the reason for your knowledge or suspicion in the case of a required disclosure. If you are requesting consent, it is important that your narrative provides all the necessary information as consent will not be granted without this.
Necessary information is:
- Information that demonstrates the basis for your knowledge and suspicion. You should cover:
- the name of the person you are reporting and their relation to you for example your client, the other side or a third-party funder
- the transaction you are undertaking for them or how you received the information causing the suspicion
- the criminal activity you suspect the person has been engaging in
- A description of the property that you know or suspect is criminal property, and the value (estimated if necessary) of that property.
- If you are seeking consent, a description of the prohibited act for which you seek a defence (ie the principal offence you would be committing without consent) and any critical deadlines. Note that the NCA cannot infer or assume what money laundering offence you would be committing - you must describe this explicitly.
If you participate in activities regulated under section 12 of the Money Laundering Regulations 2017, you must give:
- The identity of the person or persons you know or suspect is involved in money laundering (if you know it), and
- The whereabouts of the property you know or suspect is criminal property (as far as you know it).
If you are not able to identify the information in points 4 and 5, you must provide information which you believe (or it is reasonably expected that you may believe) may assist in identifying the person or persons, or the whereabouts of the property.
For further guidance on the style and content of your SAR, see the NCA’s guidance on submitting better quality SARs.
Using glossary codes
You should remember to use the correct Glossary Code at the start of your free text. This helps you quickly describe the reason for your suspicion and allows the NCA to easily prioritise SARs and search through the 400,000 reports it receives every year.
Please check the NCA's latest Glossary Codes for the code you should be using.
What not to do
The NCA's consideration of your SAR may be delayed and you could find your and your firm’s time being taken up in protracted correspondence if you:
- send or attach files
- ask for consent to take on a client for whom you cannot fully complete CDD
- include superfluous details on everything just in case
- supply privileged information
- ask the NCA to verify your client's identity for you
- use complicated legalese or Latin terms
Getting more help