Money laundering can affect all types of businesses, including firms of lawyers, accountants, auditors, insolvency practitioners, estate agents and even casinos. Such businesses may inadvertently provide criminals with a means in which assets or money generated from illegal activities can be ‘cleaned’.
The Money Laundering Regulations 2007 (the ‘Regulations’) aim to protect the financial system by imposing duties on businesses in specific sectors to check the identity of their customers and keep all relevant records of monies received. Affected businesses must also appoint a ‘nominated officer’ and report any suspicious activity to the National Crime Agency. Given the level of duties imposed, it is easy to fall foul of the legislation. In particular, under the Regulations, the burden of assessing risk and managing it is on the business itself. The Regulations also impose a duty of ongoing monitoring and enhanced due diligence where appropriate. The most onerous aspect of the Regulations is that those found culpable of money laundering offences can face fines, lengthy imprisonment terms and confiscation proceedings.
Individual employees and company directors can also be held personally liable for offences. The business’s assets could be frozen, having a huge impact on business operations and cash flow. As solicitors, we are affected by the Regulations first hand and can advise you on all aspects of this area of law, whether your business is being investigated for money laundering or whether you want to take steps to ensure your business does not fall foul of the legislation. Please contact our criminal litigation team for further advice and information.