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Leading accountants have urged regulators to keep pace with technology in the fight against economic crime.

Estimates show financial crime costs the world $3.5 trillion per year — more than the gross domestic product of the UK – and often sees countless people lose savings, jobs and sometimes much more.

A new report, Economic Crime in a Digital Age, features analysis from senior practitioners at ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and EY. It focuses on the challenges business faces in fending off breaches from sophisticated attackers.

The panel found there is still a pressing need to create a regulatory environment that supports financial innovation as well as limiting the risks for consumers and businesses. Policymakers and regulators must overcome the technology lag – where legislation has sufficiently caught up with technology.

Jason Piper, head of Tax and Business Law at ACCA, believes technological advances and criminal activity can often go hand in hand.

Mr. Piper says the scope of technology means there are more potential victims of economic crime in single attacks.

He says: ‘Economic growth flourishes on technological advances, however criminal activity also responds and reacts, and the opportunity that criminals exploit creates challenges for regulators, legitimate businesses and their customers, auditors and advisers alike.

‘This lag will be exacerbated by the skills and knowledge deficits within the regulatory and law enforcement community. In recent years, criminals have benefited from operating internationally in a way regulators cannot.’

Rogue actors are increasingly abusing emerging technologies and innovation to compromise data integrity. In order to effectively mitigate this risk, companies need to carefully review and assess areas such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and cybersecurity linked to their critical processes and data.

Commenting on the report, ACCA’s head of Pakistan, Sajjeed Aslam said, ‘Cyberspace does not recognize national borders – but law enforcement must. To tackle crime, businesses and law enforcement around the world need to be able to act together, and that relies upon a coordinated global regulatory approach which recognizes the new landscape and reflects the demands of a digital age.’

Andrew Gordon, EY Global Forensic & Integrity Services Leader says: ‘Embedding a culture of integrity is critical for organizations. Achieving this through a combination of data insights, governance, culture, controls and procedures will help organizations protect themselves in the constantly transforming risk landscape.’