Money Laundering Offences Lawyers

Money laundering is a prominent issue for many governments, including that of the UK. The challenge for governments and regulators is that money laundering is an incredibly sophisticated crime, which can be very difficult to identify. This is one of the many reasons why governments have taken steps to formulate legislation that is sufficiently well drafted to be able to identify instances of suspected money laundering.

If you or your business is facing an investigation for money laundering, it is vital that you consult with a leading law firm that has extensive experience and knowledge to protect your interests. Bright Line Law is a leading law firm which provides guidance on anti-money laundering frameworks and strategic advice to clients, individuals and corporates, on defending allegations relating to money laundering.

Defining the offence: what is money laundering?

In the UK money laundering is generally understood to be the process of concealing the illegal origin or ownership of property by making to the property or sources of the property appear legitimate. This is normally done through a process of introducing property that has been gained illegally into the mainstream financial system under the pretence that it is a legitimate asset.  The challenge for regulators in dealing with suspected instances of money laundering is identifying the conversion of illegal assets into legitimate items.

There are two principles instruments that regulate money laundering in the UK:

The Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002

There are three different offences under POCA which attempt to dissuade parties (particularly individuals) from facilitating the commission of money laundering:

The ‘concealing offence’

An individual will have committed money laundering if they (i) conceal criminal property; (ii) disguise criminal property; (iii) convert criminal property; (iv) transfercriminal property; or (v) removes criminal property from the UK. Property must be ‘criminal’ before this offence can be committed, which means that it must either be the fruits of criminal conduct or is representative of some benefit for criminal conduct. Further, the individual must know or at least suspect that the property constitutes that kind of benefit.

The ‘arranging offence’

An individual will be liable for having committed money laundering it can be proven that they entered into, or somehow became involved in affairs so as to acquire, use or control criminal property. An important ingredient in this offence is that an individual need only suspect that the property concerned represents some form of benefit for criminal conduct.

The ‘acquisition, use and possession’ offence

Under POCA it is an offence to procure, use or even be in possession of criminal property. Similar to the arranging offence, the crime will have been committed if there is evidence of an individuals’ suspicion that property acquired, used or held is their own or another’s benefit or ‘reward’ for criminal conduct.

In addition, POCA imposes additional responsibilities on individuals employed in “regulated sector” e.g. financial services. Individuals that fall within this definition are vulnerable to criminal sanction it they are aware or suspect the commission of money laundering, and fail to disclose this.

The Money Laundering Regulations

While POCA is geared to prevent the facilitation of money laundering, additional provisions have been enacted to prevent businesses from being used as money laundering vehicles. This largely stems from legislative developments at the European level, but has resulted in what is known in the UK as the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 (“the 2007 Regulations”). The 2007 Regulations are specifically designed to reduce the risk of professional services from being used for money laundering, thereby requiring various organisations including trust and company service providers, financial institutions and accountancy and legal advisors to monitor clients’ use of their service.

The 2007 Regulations impose a positive obligation on organisations to design processes and procedures that reduce the risk of their becoming embroiled in money laundering. There is detailed guidance within the 2007 Regulations on what this involves, including amongst other things:

  • analysing the risk of your business being implicated in money laundering
  • validating the details of your customers to confirm their identity; and
  • checking the details of ‘beneficial owners’ of corporate entities.

Defending against money laundering accusations: is there a defence?

If there is a breach of any of the anti-money laundering rules, the sanction can be severe depending on the kind of offence that has been committed and whether or not there is a plausible defence to the allegation. Defences to allegations for breach of POCA although limited are possible, principally where there is evidence of sufficient disclosure to the authorities or an intention to do so, but a reasonable excuse not to have disclosed. It is vital that if you are concerned about a potential breach of POCA, you consult with a specialist lawyer and consider your position: violation of POCA can, in severe instances result in several years’ imprisonment if found guilty.

It is also possible to defend against allegations for having breach the 2007 Regulations, by making use of the argument that all reasonable steps had been taken to reduce the risk of becoming involved in money laundering. The difficulty, however, is that this will largely be determined on the particular facts of a situation, and will need handling by a powerful advocate to be forcefully presented in any defence. Breach of the 2007 Regulations can have disastrous consequences for businesses, ranging from the issuing of financial penalties to the raising of criminal proceedings in some situations. If your business is facing an investigation, you should speak with an experienced legal advisor to review your situation and plan an effective defence.

Contact Bright Line Law’s Money Laundering Defence Lawyers in London

Bright Line Law is highly regarded as a specialist provider, winning the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers of 2017 award, as well as being Top Ranked within the UK Bar Chambers for 2018 and 2019. Bright Line Law is a specialist provider in this area, contact a member of our team, call us on + 44 (0)203 709 9470, or fill in our online enquiry form.

Jonathan Fisher QC
Lead Counsel

Telephone + 020 3872 2852

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