Preventing the laundering of the proceeds of criminal activity has been a key priority for successive UK governments over the course of many years, and as a consequence, the UK is seen to have one of the most stringent anti-money laundering regimes anywhere in the world.
For those running businesses or involved in commercial life, it is vitally important to be aware of the legislation that covers these types of practices and to remain up to date with any developments in this area and changes in the law. However, this legislation is notoriously extensive and complex, and remaining fully aware of your responsibilities and obligations can be challenging. The Criminal Defence Team at Wilford Smith specialises in providing legal representation in relation to all types of financial crime, and our lawyers are experts in advising on the UK’s financial regulatory framework.
Why do I need a solicitor to advise me in relation to money laundering?
Without the right guidance, even experienced and judicious business people can find themselves inadvertently caught up in money laundering investigations. The rules on financial transactions set out in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) and the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 are stringent, and the consequences of failing to adhere to these can be devastating for a business and the individuals running them. Those found to have been engaged in money laundering, or who have failed to report suspected money laundering, will be subject to substantial financial penalties, imprisonment, a criminal record and damage to their business and reputation. For those accused of financial crimes, it is vital that they have sophisticated and astute legal expertise at hand in order to conduct a robust defence in relation to any charges made against them. The Financial Crime Solicitors at Wilford Smith, with extensive experience in advising clients in relation to money laundering investigations, have the required skills, knowledge and determination to ruthlessly develop a top level strategy on your behalf, ensuring the best outcome in any case.
What is money laundering?
Money laundering is a process used by criminals to disguise the origins of the proceeds of crime to make these proceeds appear legitimate. Money derived from criminal activity, such as fraud or drug trafficking, is ‘cleaned’ so that it is not possible to identify where it came from, and to protect these funds from confiscation by the authorities. Criminals use different means to achieve this, from simple schemes to the most sophisticated, involving complex financial transactions, chains of companies and offshore accounts.
How does the law deal with money laundering?
Money laundering in the UK is regulated by POCA and the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017. Under POCA, there are three main money laundering offences. It is an offence to:
- conceal, disguise, convert, transfer or remove criminal property from a jurisdiction;
- enter into an arrangement that makes the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property possible;
- acquire, use or possess criminal property.
If you are charged with money laundering, it is up to the prosecution to prove that the money or property in question has derived, in whole or in part, from criminal activity. They will also be required to prove that you knew, or should reasonably have suspected that, the money or property was achieved through criminal means.
The National Crime Agency (NCA), the police and HMRC have responsibility for investigating money laundering, and these matters are usually prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Those found guilty of money laundering offences may receive a substantial fine, a prison sentence of up to 14 years, or both.
Under POCA there are also extensive requirements for businesses to report instances of money laundering, or suspected money laundering, to the NCA’s UK Financial Intelligence Unit (UKFIT). Failure to do so will constitute a criminal offence. Businesses will also be guilty of an offence if they make such a report, but then inform a customer or third party that they have reported their activities.
The Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 also place obligations on businesses and professionals such as credit organisations, accountants and estate agents to have in place safeguards to protect against potential money laundering. These include duties to carry out customer due diligence, to keep customer records, and to have procedures and policies in place to monitor unusual financial activity.
The legal specialists at Wilford Smith are experts in advising on money laundering and proceeds of crime investigations, providing guidance and representation for both directors and employees who find themselves unexpectedly involved, either as witnesses or suspects, in the investigation process. Our experienced Criminal Defence Solicitors, with expert knowledge and skills in representing clients in relation to financial crimes, are committed to providing you with a high-level service and ensuring the best possible outcome in any case. We have significant experience in advising professionals such as solicitors, accountants and those employed in the financial and banking sectors on anti-money laundering compliance measures, as required under the Regulations. By advising on these measures and ensuring they are complied with, our clients are able to guard against any potential breaches that could result in financial penalties, or in some cases imprisonment.
Contact our Money Laundering & POC Lawyers, England and Wales
Wilford Smith’s Criminal Defence Team takes pride in its reputation for unique representation, giving clients a service that is exceptionally strategic and results driven, and are able to attract the highest calibre barristers to provide support when necessary. Financial crime is an extremely complex area of law, but with years of experience in handing the most complex financial cases on behalf of our clients, we are best placed to advise you on regulatory issues, bring and defend claims on your behalf and conduct your defence in court where necessary. We know how distressing a criminal investigation can be and will ensure that you are given sympathetic, straightforward advice as part of our client-focused and highly personal service.
Contact our specialist Financial Crime Team today on 01709 828 044 to find out how we can help.