A review of accountancy and other financial bodies has found major flaws in their approach to preventing money laundering. Nicola Sharp of business crime solicitors Rahman Ravelli considers what appears to be an alarming situation.
Most professional financial bodies in Britain are failing to ensure their members do everything possible to tackle money laundering.
That is the claim from the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS), which was set up last year to try to keep laundered money out of Britain's financial system.
OPBAS, which is part of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), examines how 22 professional bodies supervise their members' compliance with anti-money laundering law. Its review of its first year has found that professional bodies are not always ensuring that members are being properly supervised.
The FCA's Alison Barker, who carried out the review, has accused the accountancy sector and smaller professional bodies of being more interested in representing their members than robustly supervising standards. She believes this is partly because they do not believe or do not want to believe that money laundering exists in their sector. As a result, she says, intelligence regarding money laundering is not being shared enough.
The OPBAS review found that some professional bodies did not fully understand their role as an anti-money laundering supervisor. More than 90% had not fully developed a risk-based approach to money laundering and had not collected all the necessary data to assess the dangers of money laundering faced by their members.
Barker has called for more leadership from the senior figures in the professional bodies concerned, more resources to be devoted to their supervision of members, robust enforcement of money laundering standards and a greater recognition that members of such professional bodies are vulnerable to the dangers of money laundering.
While her review's findings give cause for concern it has to be hoped that they will prompt the bodies that have been criticised to examine the shortcomings that have been highlighted. If those professional bodies are unsure how to enforce money laundering standards they must seek advice from those who can.
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