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Money laundering - student bank accounts advice

We have been made aware that the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), a new unit established to tackle economic crime, has acted today to freeze 95 bank accounts of students attending UK universities. These accounts are suspected of being used in significant money laundering operations.

Many of the accounts are held by overseas students who may be unaware that operating a bank account in this manner is potentially illegal. Officers from the NECC assess that the students are likely to have been targeted by organised crime groups, specifically to launder the proceeds of crime. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by universities in relation to this matter.

Universities UK (UUK) has drafted a reactive statement, as follows:

“Universities UK has been informed of this action, which will help to raise awareness of the risks of money laundering. The security and welfare of students is always a top priority for universities. We would be concerned if any student studying at a UK university has been exploited and unwittingly drawn into criminal activity. Equally, we recognise the seriousness of this issue and the sector’s responsibility to make all students aware of the consequences of involvement in criminal activity.

“The message to students is to remain vigilant and question anything that seems unusual. We would encourage any student who fears their account may have been misused to speak to either their university support services, banks, or to the police.

“[UUK] will be working with the government and other stakeholders to develop a clear set of guidelines for the sector, to raise awareness and protect students from being targeted by organised crime groups.”

The British Council’s Creating Confidence guidance and the UKCISA website both contain helpful information for students.

We will publish further advice and guidance as it is released, but in the mean time we would like to remind all students (home, EU and international) to be vigilant about your bank accounts; to report any suspicious activity and NOT to engage with it; as the consequences of engaging with such criminal activity can be very serious.

Tue 05 Mar 2019, 10:22