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Published: Friday December 18, 2015

New Anti-Money Laundering Rules: Carrot or Stick?

I read with interest an article taken from the City and Business section of the Daily Express concerning new EU Anti-Money Laundering rules which take effect in 2017 and the potential detrimental effect it could have on the fight to prevent Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing.

As a former Law Enforcement Fraud Squad officer who spent the last 14 years of my service as an Accredited Financial Investigator I often wonder if successive governments home and abroad really take this subject seriously. This report and rumours that the SAR / consent requirements are under review leads me to think they do not.

From my perspective I worked alongside a number of dedicated officers who tried to fully implement the Proceeds of Crime Legislation (POCA) to its fullest extent in order to strip offenders of their ill-gotten gains and more importantly wherever possible recover monies for the victims of their criminal activities. My office was mirrored by other such offices up and down the country within other Police Forces, HMRC, Local Authorities and all the other agencies given such powers. I had daily contact with Financial Institutions and the assistance they provided was invaluable and their staff worked just as hard and diligently in trying to achieve those same aims as Law Enforcement as well as protecting their customers.

The sticking point came with the Judiciary and the attitude of Her Majesty’s Government: POCA was not universally loved by the Judiciary. Some felt its powers were too Draconian, they didn’t like Police Officers acting “like tax inspectors” and the burden of proof being switched from the Crown to the Defendant within Confiscation Proceedings. As a result Judges would limit the scope of the Confiscation hearing, not include all available assets and sometimes not grant leave for a hearing at all. I was once involved in one case where my own Prosecution Counsel did not like POCA which resulted in a heated argument prior to the hearing and a paltry Confiscation Order granted at its conclusion. Successive Governments have insisted “Law Enforcement can seize more assets – look at the powers we have given them! The banks can do more to prevent dirty money being laundered through the British Banking systems, look at the legislation we have passed that they have to comply with”. I never read any adverse comments about the judiciary’s roles and responsibilities and maybe how they could do so much better.

More legislation and more pressure on the banks to detect and /or prevent money laundering is only one half of the equation. The judiciary should also be forced to enforce that legislation regardless of personal feelings toward it and Governments should stop using this costly crime as a soundbite.

Stephen Baugh – AML/ABC Subject matter specialist CFIL

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