Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs)


Criminals employ a range of techniques to clean their “dirty money”. Professionals working in the accountancy, legal and property sectors are being targeted because of their expert skills and services (National Risk Assessment 2017), which can give a cloak of legitimacy to illicit cash. This gives professionals a crucial role to play in protecting the UK’s economy, and wider society by reporting suspicious activity.

While money laundering isn’t always obvious, the consequences are severe.  Even accidental involvement in money laundering could mean losing your licence, receiving a fine, or facing criminal prosecution. 

To tackle this threat, the UK Government is working with the accountancy, legal and property sectors through Flag It Up, to promote best practice in anti-money laundering compliance and reporting suspicious activity.


Money laundering is the process by which the profits of illegal activities are disguised and made to appear legitimate. The National Crime Agency’s National Strategic Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime 2018 states that there is a realistic possibility that the scale of money laundering impacting the UK annually is in the hundreds of billions of pounds. Money laundering is not only a crime itself, but also a key enabler of other serious crimes such as modern slavery, drugs trafficking, fraud, corruption, and even terrorism. If you’re suspicious, Flag It Up!

If you suspect that money laundering may be taking place, you are legally obligated under the 2017 Money Laundering Regulations to submit a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) to the National Crime Agency. 

A high quality SAR can provide crucial intelligence for law enforcement and can help to prevent a wide range of serious and organised crime and terrorist activities. 

Investigations are often based on multiple SARs, and your report could be the missing piece of the puzzle.


The easiest way to submit a SAR is with the secure SAR Online system.

SAR Online is free, negates the need for paper-based reporting, provides an instant acknowledgement and reference number (which manual reporting does not) and reports can be made 24/7. Online reports will also be processed more quickly, particularly if a defence against money laundering is sought. 


The quality of a SAR can affect law enforcement's ability to prioritise and process the report. It can also affect the relevant agency’s decision or ability to investigate. Include as much detail as you can, even if it seems irrelevant, as it could become a valuable piece of information.

Poor quality reporting can lead to unnecessary delays, particularly where a defence against money laundering has been sought, and can cause face-to-face problems with your client, customer or supplier. 

See the UKFIU document Guidance on Submitting Better Quality SARs.


Those reporting to the UKFIU need to be aware of the ‘tipping off’ provisions (Section 333A-E of POCA) which makes it an offence, having submitted a SAR, to reveal information which is likely to prejudice any resulting law enforcement investigation. If you have concerns you should contact your supervisor or seek appropriate legal advice.


One of the core functions of the UKFIU is the receipt and processing of requests for a defence against money laundering or terrorism financing offences (otherwise known as ‘consent’, ‘appropriate consent’ or ‘prior consent’). 

To request a defence it is advisable to submit a SAR including all of the relevant information. This will enable the NCA to analyse the request and, where necessary, seek advice from the relevant agency.

Consult the NCA guidance on Requesting a defence under POCA TACT for further information. 


The National Crime Agency (NCA) has produced and published for members a series of useful documents and guides regarding money laundering issues.

Submitting a SAR
SAR Glossary Codes
SAR Guidance Notes

The full NCA document library can be viewed here.

The NCA is unable to give advice on whether or not an individual or organisation should submit a SAR.

020 7238 8282 - General UKFIU queries and SAR Online technical support only. (This is a voicemail service only; leave a message including the date, time, contact details, and the nature of your query.) – General UKFIU queries, SAR Online technical support. – Urgent queries regarding or information updating current DAML requests only. – queries regarding the disclosure of SARs during litigation or as part of a Data Subject Access Request.