07 December 2017
Law firms of all sizes have access to markets, for example through conveyancing or forming trusts or companies, which makes the profession a prime target for money launderers. As Donald Toon, Director of Prosperity (Economic Crime and Cybercrime) at the National Crime Agency told delegates at this year’s compliance officer conference, solicitors are at the forefront of the war against money laundering. Keeping the profession free of money laundering is in everyone’s interest.
It is a key way of disrupting serious crime - crime that funds everything from terrorists to people traffickers. None of us can afford to be complacent, we must all step up to deal with the challenge.
We know firms carry out due diligence checks on clients all the time and challenge suspicious activity on a regular basis, but the Government thinks that more can be done and, in June, introduced new regulations. These regulations put new obligations on us as a regulator and you in the profession to make sure that extra layers of protection are built.
Collecting updated information
The new requirements mean that we, as the supervisory body, now need to hold more information about you and your colleagues. So although we already hold information about you, we will need to ask you for further details if you offer services that fall within the scope of the money-laundering regulations.
We will be sending out a questionnaire early next year. Completing it will be mandatory, as it is required to meet the money-laundering regulations.
We will need responses promptly to meet Government timelines on this. So to help you prepare to complete it in time, we will make the questions available ahead of sending you the questionnaire itself.
Guidance on completing the questionnaire will also be made available on our website, and we will email you when these have been published.
Further guidance on the new regulations
In August, the Legal Sector Affinity Group produced draft guidance for firms. While it is still in need of approval from HM Treasury, it can be viewed in draft form on our website.
The National Crime Agency meanwhile has issued guidance for Money Laundering Reporting Officers when seeking consent – now referred to as a defence against money laundering – if submitting a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR).