An FBI-style agency aimed at combating organised crime in the UK has been launched in Birmingham by Home Office Minister Paul Goggins.

As part of its national debut, Mr Goggins yesterday visited Sparkbrook to introduce the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) to the Midlands.

He said Soca had been developed to tackle drug trafficking, organised immigration crime, money laundering and identity fraud in the country.

It will work in partnership with the National Crime Squad, the National Intelligence Squad, part of HM Revenue and Customs and the UK Immigration Service.

"What Soca signals is that we will take on organised criminals on every level and 4,000 people will work very closely with local law enforcement to make sure people will be brought to justice," he said.

"This is a partnership with local law enforcement, the Crown Prosecution Service and others."

Mr Goggins' visit to Birmingham coincided with Soca's national launch in London.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "The level of brutality with which many of these gangs operate today means we have to do things differently.

"The law has been too weak in recent times and the criminal too strong.

"With Soca, the balance will once again shift. With Soca, we will ensure that the rule of law prevails."

Mr Blair used the opportunity to send a message to crime bosses around the country.

"This is an agency that has got the powers and the organisation that is going to make life hell for you while you make life hell for other people.

"We will have the powers to come after you, to get you, to put you in jail and then to make sure that even after you leave jail that you are subject to restrictions on your financial activities for a long, long time to come."

Home Secretary Charles Clarke said: "I am today sending the organised criminal underworld a clear message - be afraid.

"The Serious Organised Crime Agency marks a change in our efforts to stay ahead of the game in the fight against serious organised crime.

"Drug and people trafficking will be its top priorities along with fraud and identity theft.

"Drug trafficking intelligence officers from HM Revenue and Customs and special-ist organised immigration crime officers from the Immigration Service will work together with officers from the former National Crime Squad and National Criminal Intelligence Agency, to exploit hi-tech 21st century technology and uncover the new wave of crime bosses.

"They will draw on new powers of search, seizure and interrogation to provide a specialised and relentless attack on organised crime, alongside existing law enforcement agencies."

Bill Hughes, the former head of the National Crime Squad, was yesterday named Soca's director general.

He said: "Soca will combine proven techniques and new methods of investigation, intelligence gathering and intervention to prevent organised criminals from causing harm and misery to our fellow citizens and to the UK in general.

"That is why Soca has already been working with others to start building the coalition of forces - not just with law enforcement but with others in the public and private sectors - who together will change the climate for organised crime.

"Soca is committed to supporting and working in part-nership with all those who can make a difference."

The creation of Soca was announced in February 2004 by the then Home Secretary David Blunkett and was established in April 2005, in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.