Britain's SOCA same to America's FBI
London, Apr 3: A new British national crime-fighting unit modelled on the U S Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will be launched by the government today with the aim of taking on major criminal gangs.
The Serious Organised Crime Agency, which will have a staff of around 5,000, will tackle drug traffickers, people smugglers, global paedophile networks and sophisticated fraudsters.
It will have new powers such as the use of evidence from phone tapping, plea bargaining for witnesses, and a more sophisticated witness protection programme.
SOCA's chairman Sir Stephen Lander, former head of Britain's domestic spy agency MI5, said last year one of its main goals would be to take on people smugglers who exploit illegal immigrants, such as the Chinese shellfish gatherers who drowned in Morecambe Bay in northern England.
It will also focus on those criminals involved in trafficking women, often from eastern Europe, into Britain and forcing them to work as prostitutes.
''Our aim is to disrupt and destabilise criminal gangs and reduce the harm they are causing to the UK,'' Bill Hughes, SOCA's director general told the Sunday Telegraph.
The cost of organised crime in Britain is estimated to be about 40 billion pounds (73.23 billion dollar) per year and is rising.
''The drugs market, we think, is worth 7 billion pounds a year.
People smuggling, we have estimated, is worth about 1 billion pounds in the UK,'' Hughes said.
''We want to get these criminals off the streets.'' Last month, London police said it was estimated there were 170 organised criminal gangs made up of over 24 different nationalities working in the capital alone.
SOCA's role combines the work previously carried out by the National Crime Squad and the National Criminal Intelligence Service as well as some areas which immigration and customs officers used to enforce.