New heads of 'British FBI' named

The men who are to head up Britain's version of FBI – the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) – have been named today by the Home Secretary.

The former head of MI5, Sir Stephen Lander, has been appointed as chair of SOCA, and will be responsible for setting the organisation’s vision and overall strategy. And one of the UK’s top police officers, Bill Hughes, will be director general – responsible for implementing the strategy through the operations and management of the organisation.

The appointees will officially take up their posts in September 2004.

SOCA was established in February to create a single, specialist organisation focused on reducing the harm caused to society by organised crime.

SOCA will bring together existing agencies and skills and create an intelligence-driven mix of analysis, surveillance, technical skills, financial expertise and law enforcement powers to achieve a much greater impact of organised crime than ever before, the Home Office said.

Home Secretary David Blunkett said that the pair would "give strategic vision and firm direction to this ground breaking new organisation".

He added: "Organised crime is big business. It causes untold harm on our streets, damage to our communities and nets billions of pounds each year for those responsible. It blights vulnerable communities, ruining lives and instilling fear.

"As criminals become more sophisticated, so we must raise our game to fight it. We must make better use of technology to stay ahead. The creation of a single agency to tackle organised crime marks a step change in our efforts to reduce the harm it does to the UK and its citizens."

Sir Stephen, who led MI5 from 1996 to 2002, said he was determined to see the agency "uniquely placed and capable of disrupting and disabling the organised criminals that are damaging this country".

Mr Hughes, who headed up the National Crime Squad from January 2001, said that SOCA represented a "major step change in tackling organised and serious crime".

"It is about taking what the UK has now, the professionalism, the successes and intelligence into how the criminal world works, and using all those ingredients to form the basis for a new organisation that will be flexible, innovative and, above all, always one step ahead of the criminals," he said.


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