18 Dec 2015
This week, a joint campaign developed by the Home Office, the Accountancy Affinity Group, the Law Society and the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority was launched to raise accountancy and legal professionals’ awareness of the warning signs of money laundering.
Named ‘Flag it Up!’, the campaign aims to prevent professionals from ‘sleepwalking’ into assisting organised crime through publishing case studies of instances where solicitors have unwittingly become involved in money laundering. The issue has attained added significance with the 2015 Serious Crime Act making it a criminal offence to participate in the activities of an organised crime group. The scheme encourages professionals to report suspicious client activity and also emphasises the powers that law enforcement agencies have to recover criminal assets and freeze suspicious funds under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
The campaign is one part of the wider conversation that is currently taking place in the UK about money laundering. On Tuesday of this week, Transparency International (TI) UK, the UK branch of the global anti-corruption campaigning organisation, released a report stating that the UK’s current AML scheme was “woefully inadequate and structurally unsound”. The report follows the UK government publishing its first national risk assessment of money laundering and terrorist financing in October, which concluded that the UK financial sector’s size and complexity increases its exposure to criminality compared to other states’ financial sectors, with abuse facilitated by professional enablers in the legal and accountancy sector. Indeed, ‘high-end’ money laundering through these sectors is identified as the highest risk category.
By taking a collaborative approach across leading accountancy organisations, regulators and HM Revenue & Customs, Flag it Up! is no doubt a step in the right direction. What matters now is enforceability and accountability to ensure that the UK defends its position as a well-regulated financial jurisdiction.
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