"Fantastic insight into the procedural aspects as well as the substantive law" of large-scale money laundering cases."
Chambers and Partners, 2020
The UK’s anti-money laundering regime is one of the toughest in the world.
Tackling the problem of ‘dirty money’ in our financial system remains a key Government priority. Businesses, financial institutions, individuals and their advisers are all bound by our stringent anti-money laundering legislation. Many are also in the regulated sector so bound by the Money Laundering Regulations 2017 (as amended) [the regulations]. This includes, for example, solicitors, accountants, bankers, estate agents. The regulations requires them to implement certain checks, controls and procedures to prevent money laundering. A failure to do so is a criminal offence.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Gambling Commission and HMRC have statutory AML powers to supervisor those in the regulated sector. The Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS), which sits within the FCA, is also now tasked with ensuring a high standard of AML supervision in the accountancy and legal sectors.
Across the board, regulators are ramping up supervision and enforcement action to ensure that AML procedures are strictly adhered to and criminal activity is detected on a zero-tolerance basis.
How we can help
We are expert in advising both individuals and organisations who find themselves caught in the fight against financial crime.
From those accused of perpetrating “high-end” money laundering arising from major frauds, terrorist activity and international corruption, to those suspected of facilitating it further along the laundering process. Whether payments are electronic or cash-based, used to purchase crypto, financial or physical property assets; whether parties are knowingly or unwittingly involved – we can assist.
We have an impressive track record in providing criminal defence advice to corporates and individuals alleged to have disguised the illicit origin of funds.
We also regularly advise those who might be considered enablers - lawyers, trust and company formation agents, investment banks and fund managers, accountants and real estate agents - on the regulatory and criminal law consequences of AML investigations, be they suspects or witnesses.
- We draft policies and procedures to assist organisations in complying with their AML requirements and ensuring they have robust controls in place;
- We provide money laundering training to help businesses stay abreast of the latest developments in AML legislation;
- We provide expert advice on when to make Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) to the NCA and on compliance with the SARs regime including tipping-off provisions;
- We get involved when clients are accused of a failure to report suspected activity;
- We conduct anti-money laundering audits for individuals and corporate entities and advise on prevention measures and compliance requirements.
The legislation underpinning the UK’s AML regime is wide-ranging and complex. We pride ourselves on providing practical, commercial advice.
Where an internal investigation is called for, we can quickly analyse relevant transactions and recommend a strategy. Where a breach has occurred, we look to assist with remediation. Where allegations require a more nuanced response or robust defence, we look to protect our client’s best interests.
We recognise that clients want the strongest possible opportunity to avoid the fines, convictions and reputational damage that can follow a money laundering investigation.
If you are concerned that you may have fallen foul of AML regulations or need specialist compliance advice contact one of our specialist AML lawyers.
Senior Associate (Barrister)
A source describes the team as "on top of its game," thanks to being "exposed to tremendous cases."
Chambers and Partners UK, 2020
One of the premier white collar defence teams in London."
Legal 500 UK, 2020
Straddles the overlap between contentious regulatory work and financial crime."
Chambers and Partners UK, 2020
They are a really outstanding firm - their POCA and asset forfeiture work is absolutely first-class."
Chambers and Partners UK, 2019
“When it comes to money laundering matters, “there is no one better” than Jonathan Grimes, who “never fails to deliver astute and considered counsel” to clients”
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Latest blogs & news
The FCA proposes new listing guidance for cannabis-related businesses – a positive step for investors concerned about the Proceeds of Crime Act
In September 2020 the FCA published a statement regarding the listing of cannabis-related businesses (CRBs) in the UK. Since then several CRBs have been admitted to the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and appetite for investments in the medicinal cannabis industry continues to grow.
Will the CPS’ decision to update its guidance mean an increase in prosecutions for failure to disclose under section 330 of POCA 2002?
Recent guidance issued by the CPS on the offence of ‘failure to disclose’ under section 330 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (‘POCA 2002’) states that it is now “possible to charge an individual under section 330 even though there is insufficient evidence to establish that money laundering was planned or has taken place.”
To date, there have seldom been prosecutions for this offence but this guidance – effectively removing a significant element of the offence - suggests that the CPS may be looking to bring more charges in the future.
Money launderers will look for any opportunity to take advantage of organisations with weak financial controls in order to launder their ill-gotten gains. Charities, trustees, employees and volunteers who knowingly or unwittingly assist money launderers, or who fail to report suspicions, may commit a criminal offence and find themselves liable to prosecution.
HMRC monitors over 30,000 businesses to ensure their compliance with the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 (the regulations). Businesses which are found to have breached their regulatory obligations are at risk of civil and even criminal penalties.
On 12 November the SFO announced that it had secured an agreement from Julio Faerman to pay a total of £1,198,424.78, following a civil recovery investigation into his UK assets. These assets included a £4.25m luxury apartment in West London which the SFO suspected to have been partly purchased with funds derived from its owner’s corruption.
The Government has published a circular on extensions to the moratorium period for Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs), which acts as a restatement of the law and aims to ensure consistency in practice by law enforcement agencies in relation to the Defence Against Money Laundering (DAML) regime under section 335 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA). The circular, published September 2020, sets out the responsibilities for the agencies involved in the process, and gives some indication of ways in which affected parties can play a part in the process.
North Yorkshire Police announced in October 2020 the recovery of over £300,000 by means of Account Freezing and Forfeiture Orders (AFrOs and AFoOs). The news serves as a reminder of the popularity and increasingly widespread use of this law enforcement power that was created under the Criminal Finances Act 2017.
The NCA will be pleased as punch with the highly publicised outcome of their investigation into the businessman Mansoor Hussain; using several of the tools at its disposal, the agency has agreed a settlement with Mr Hussain that will see him relinquish ownership of numerous properties, assets and cash to the amount of £9,802,828. All on the basis of his alleged links to serious organised crime in the UK but without the need for any criminal proceedings.
The SFO has followed in the footsteps of the NCA and HMRC by using, for the first time, a listed asset order (‘LAO’) to recover £500,000 worth of jewellery which they were satisfied represented the proceeds of crime.
The Government announced its intention to introduce an Economic Crime Levy in the Budget 2020. This is designed to fund government action to tackle money laundering and help deliver the reforms committed to in the Economic Crime plan 2019-2020. It has since followed up on this - on 21 July - with the launch of a consultation as to how such a levy would operate.
In the Home Secretary’s foreword to the National Crime Agency’s Annual Report 2019-20, she details the “NCA’s relentless mission to end the very worst criminality” and the report cites the categories of Serious and Organised Crime (SOC) that “destroy lives” including: child sexual abuse; modern slavery and human trafficking; organised immigration crime; cybercrime; fraud; money laundering; bribery and corruption; and, sanctions evasion.
Media reports from 24 July 2020 inform us that the City of London Police (COLP) has seized more than £2 million held in British bank accounts as a result “of profits made by an Italian mafia gang”. We are told that Westminster Magistrates’ Court ordered the forfeiture of the cash after detectives submitted evidence that it was being channelled through London in a money-laundering operation.
The rights of third parties in confiscation proceedings have been the subject of scrutiny over recent years by the courts and legislature, as detailed in our blog, ‘The rights of third parties in confiscation matters: an inhospitable landscape’. The issue was considered most recently in the case of R v Hilton  UKSC 29 in which the Supreme Court restated the law regarding when third parties may make representations to the court.
In our previous blog, ‘Unexplained Wealth Orders: An overview of the regime to date’ we considered the challenges faced by the NCA in their efforts to use the relatively new statutory tool of Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs). Unfortunately for the NCA, one of the four cases they have focused their efforts on since its introduction has now been unequivocally lost.
Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) were introduced pursuant to the Criminal Finances Act (CFA) 2017 in order to bolster the UK’s proceeds of crime regime and they have been the subject of much media attention because of the vast sums of money and high value property involved. The NCA and other law enforcement agencies have now had over two years to avail themselves of this investigatory tool and in this blog we consider the challenges that have arisen and what lessons have been learnt to date.
In our recent blog ‘The (quiet) extension of the AML regime: an overview’ we looked at the key changes for the regulated sector, pursuant to the new Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Regulations 2019 which came into force on 10 January 2020. This new legislation also extended the reach of the UK’s anti-money laundering regime to individuals or businesses who deal in the sales, purchases and storage of works of art with a value of 10,000 euros or more, regardless of the means of payment.
The Metropolitan police announced on 23 April that it had obtained a Forfeiture Order in the sum of €1.9m following a cross-border money laundering investigation. The order was obtained under provisions created by the Criminal Finances Act 2017, which allow accounts to frozen by means of Account Freezing Orders (AFOs), and ultimately to be forfeit by means of a Forfeiture Order, if a Magistrates’ Court is satisfied that the funds in the account represent the proceeds of crime or are intended for use in crime.
In a significant decision, on 8 April 2020, the High Court discharged three Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) following applications by the respondents to those orders. This is the first time the High Court has acted to discharge such orders. The National Crime Agency (NCA) has already indicated its intention to appeal.
On 27 February 2020, the Gambling Commission announced that it had fined Mr Green (now owned by William Hill plc) £3 million for what it described as “systemic failings” in respect of Mr Green’s social responsibility and anti-money laundering (“AML”) controls which affected a significant number of customers across its online casinos. The fine represents the ninth gambling business to face regulatory enforcement action relating to social responsibility and AML failures since 2018.
The NCA announced on 13 February that it had obtained a freezing order preventing the sale of 17 addresses as part of an on-going investigation into a Leeds businessman with suspected links to serious organised criminals. It confirmed that the Property Freezing Order (PFO) covers properties in Leeds, Cheshire and London worth approximately £10.5 million, which are under the control of 39-year-old Mansoor Mahmood Hussain.