A recent Freedom of Information Request to the MOJ by the Howard Kennedy Business Crime team elicited the rather startling response that only 5 individuals have been found guilty of offences under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 since they came into effect on 15 December of that year.
These figures only run up to the end of 2015 (the 2016 figures are released in May 2017) and exclude cases where the offence under the Regulations was not the principal offence dealt with, but nevertheless for a country apparently at the forefront of the fight against financial crime the statistics are, to put it neutrally, surprising.
The Regulations apply to a number of different sectors including financial and credit institutions, accountants, casinos, lawyers and estate agents, and require those regulated to have in place robust anti-money laundering policies and procedures, including customer due diligence, training and monitoring.
They also create over 20 offences, all of which are considered serious enough to be tried in the Crown Court with a maximum sentence of 2 years available. As a taster, I bet you didn’t know it is an offence for a regulated person to fail to make an employee aware of the law relating to money laundering and not to regularly give training in how to recognise and deal with transactions which may relate to money laundering. I wonder how the average estate agent deals with that obligation on an ongoing basis.
The offences are prosecuted (or not) by HMRC and the DPP amongst others and can be committed by a body corporate as well as an individual. Compliance with the Regulations is monitored by industry regulators including the FCA and the SRA.
It is not entirely clear why there have been so few prosecutions and the figures don’t reveal which sector the offenders came from. However given how often we hear that London is a haven for money launderers it seems that law enforcement is missing a trick here and not using a weapon in its arsenal in the fight against global crime (Unexplained Wealth Orders anyone?).
Unless of course everyone is happily compliant and the money laundering haven rumours are just sound and fury…