Preface to Global Threat Assessment by Sir Iain Lobban

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To watch the Video Summary of the main findings from the GTA click HERE.

To read what Leading Global Financial Crime Fighters think of the GTA click HERE.


Preface to GTA by Sir Iain Lobban

“I came across the following description of Intelligence recently: “Intelligence is the ability to unravel knowledge, but it is also the knowledge itself.” I might go further and say that unless intelligence is actionable, it does not deserve that label. And this is one thing that a keen reader might take away from the Global Threat Assessment-“

This is a highly impressive compendium of information from multiple sources, harvesting a wide range of studies by reputable authorities, generating a comprehensive view of the threats and trends, of the potential scale and ingenious variety of financial crime around the world today. This is truly a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts: an eagle eye’s view of the trans nationality, of the poly-criminality, of the tsunami of activity that our colleagues in law enforcement and in the investigative functions of financial institutions worldwide are grappling with heroically.”

I have worked for over four years with John Cusack, the principal author of this Study. Those who know him will attest to his experience and expertise, his authority and his restless quest to make a difference. It is hard to escape his view that not enough is being done, that insufficient focus is being brought to bear on our strategic and operational counters to this global, ever morphing phenomenon of financial crime.

Intelligence, by definition, takes information – perhaps what we describe as data these days – and forms some judgement around its accuracy, its completeness, even its veracity. Analytic processes, rigorous assessment and judgement need to be brought to bear before treating raw intelligence as evidence. Not all information should be treated equally and not all intelligence is reliable.”

This study provides a basis for understanding but is based only on what is currently available. Nevertheless this accumulation of the available information unfortunately illuminates some unpalatable truths: that what we know is not yet enough; that we both gather and report information in a sub-optimal way; and that the actions we take are not consistently based on clear thinking, on high-quality intelligence, on evidence.

Meanwhile the information presented raises as many questions as it seems to answer. Are criminals really generating revenues of almost  US$6 trillion a year? Is money laundering in fact a US$4 trillion industry? Is organised crime actually collecting nearly US$2.5 trillion a year? The publicly available sources tell us these conclusions are indeed possible, although arguments may be made that these figures are too high. Whatever the size, there seems to be no serious disagreement that the size is huge and growing, that billions of US dollars are being spent in response, but that the response is having at best only limited success.”

“So whatever the numbers, we need to acknowledge that intelligence gap, a gap not just in information but more critically in challenging analysis and hard-edged judgement, both of which need to be applied so as to offer a capacity for vigorous and focused action in response. For my part, I commend my takeaways:

  • that we need to apply more resources to converting information into intelligence, with the aim of generating reliable evidence supporting action;
  • that we therefore have to move beyond focussing on inputs and processes;
  • that we need to acknowledge that positive outcomes are the collective policy goal and need to be measured rigorously;
  • that we recognise an effective response requires a step-change in leadership in each of the public and the private sectors, but more fundamentally between the two. 

We are perhaps at an inflexion point: the fight against financial crime has not failed, but the status quo is insufficient. The data and sources are certainly imperfect, but not so inaccurate as to warrant their disregard. We have what we have and we have choices to make until new or better evidence emerges. A greater collective understanding should give rise to a refreshed resolve for concerted action to capitalise on this knowledge, seeking new models of partnership in order to defend, to disrupt and where possible to defeat the scale and variety of financial criminal activity laid bare in this Study.

Generating and leveraging intelligence lies at the heart of this fundamental advance in capacity and action.”

Sir Iain Lobban, a career intelligence officer, led the UK’s GCHQ from 2008-2014, and is an expert member of the Board Financial Crime Risk Committee at Standard Chartered since April 2015. These views are his own.

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