Hostile states are using organised crime gangs to carry out illegal activity in the UK, the head of the National Crime Agency has warned.
Director-general Graeme Biggar highlighted “the emerging links between serious and organised crime and hostile states” in a speech outlining the agency’s annual assessment of crime threats to Britain.
Speaking in Westminster, he said: “North Korea has for some time used cybercrime to steal funds and more recently cryptocurrency.
“The Russian state has long tolerated and occasionally tasked the cybercrime groups on its territory, and had links with its oligarchs and their enablers.
“And over the last year we have seen hostile states beginning to use organised crime groups – not always of the same nationality – as proxies.
“It is a development we and our colleagues in MI5 and CT (counter-terrorism) policing are watching closely.”
Mr Biggar said the biggest group of offenders in the UK is those who pose a sexual threat to children – estimated to be between 680,000 to 830,000 people, or around 10 times the prison population.
He said the availability of abuse images online has a radicalising effect by normalising paedophiles’ behaviour, and viewing images – whether real or AI-generated – increases the risk of someone going on to abuse a child themselves.
There are around 59,000 people involved in serious organised crime in the UK, with around £12bn generated by criminal activities each year and around £100bn of dirty cash from the globe laundered through the UK.