The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) will be a key plank of the UK government's plans to tackle 21st-century organised crime with a new FBI-style crime-fighting agency.
The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) will tackle crimes such as people-smuggling and drug-trafficking – and part of its remit will be to crack down on the increasingly hi-tech methods gangs use to carry out these crimes and launder the proceeds.
The elite police force will merge the National Crime Squad (which the NHTCU is part of), the National Criminal Intelligence Service and the investigative branches of the Customs and Immigration Service.
Up to 5,000 'agents' will be employed by the new force, which is not likely to be ready for operation until 2006.
The home secretary, David Blunkett, said the SOCA will exploit technology to uncover the "new wave of crime bosses" engaged in drug-smuggling, fraud, people-trafficking and money-laundering.
"Modern organised criminals are sophisticated, organised and well-resourced entrepreneurs," he said in a statement. "We need to respond to this changing criminal threat...We must become better organised, more sophisticated and more technologically capable than the criminals."
The NHTCU, which was only formed in 2001, was reluctant to talk about its role in the new agency and issued a "no comment" when contacted by ZDNet UK's sister site silicon.com.
Bill Hughes, director general of the National Crime Squad, said in a statement: "Multi-agency and multi-partnership working, such as that displayed today to the prime minister and home secretary at the National Crime Squad's Hi-Tech Crime Unit, is clearly the way forward and I believe that the interests of the UK will be best served by creating a new agency to manage all criminal intelligence and undertake national and international investigations into serious and organised crime which impacts on the UK."