A courthouse focusing on the prosecution of cybercrimes will be built on or near Fleet Street in London’s Square Mile district, a global center of finance.
Minister of State for Courts and Justice Dominic Raab formally announced the project on October 9, less than two full weeks after the Criminal Finances Act went into effect, which creates new penalties for enabling tax evasion and bolsters anti-money laundering efforts. The structure, which will contain 18 court rooms, will be an undertaking of the City of London Corporation, though it remains to be seen how its construction will be financed.
Targeting cases of fraud and other economic crimes, the court, which will also hear additional types of civil and criminal cases, is slated to replace certain civil courts as well as the City of London Magistrates’ Court and the Mayor’s and City of London Court. Though no personnel affiliated with the project have publicly discussed the possibility of the institution hearing cases that relate to blockchain technology or cryptocurrency, these nascent sectors will presumably fall under the new court’s authority. These phenomena, which represent one of the fastest growing areas in the tech world, have been variously targeted and instrumentalized by criminal elements seeking to illicitly take ownership of digital assets that can be exchanged for state-issued currency.
On September 12, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority warned consumers of certain dangers inherent in token-sale investment and provided an online form by which consumers could report investment scams masquerading as token offerings, signaling that it is paying at least some attention to these technologies.
In addition, the 2016 leak of the Panama Papers served as an international embarrassment for the UK government, as the documents revealed that over 170 billion pounds worth of property in the country belongs to overseas parties, including some that are registered in tax havens. A month after the revelations, then-Prime Minister David Cameron announced an anti-corruption drive. Though partners on the courthouse project tout it as a move to maintain the status of Britain’s legal system as “an example to the rest of the world,” it may also represent a continuation of these anti-corruption efforts.