Law Society Welcomes Government AML Stance
The government’s decision to retain the anti-money laundering (AML) consent regime has been welcomed by the Law Society and will no doubt come as a relief to solicitors who were potentially facing an unjustified removal of legal cover for meeting their obligations to report suspicious activity.
The government’s response follows an AML and counter-terrorist financing consultation earlier this year, and includes the release of the Criminal Finances Bill to give legislative effect to the revised proposals.
Law Society president Robert Bourns said:
‘The Law Society remains committed to working alongside government to maintain the solicitor profession’s role as a key ally in the fight against money laundering,’ said .
‘In our detailed response to the government’s consultation we raised a number of concerns, and it is gratifying to see the government taking these concerns seriously, making positive changes to their proposals to account for them.’
Proposals to reform the Suspicious Activity Reporting regime by removing the defence for professionals provided by consent were strongly opposed by the Law Society. This defence provided important protection for reporters of suspicious activity from the wide-ranging money laundering offences, and without it, or a corresponding change offering an equivalent level of protection to reporters, the regime would have been over-criminalised and fundamentally unworkable for solicitors. The government agreed with the Law Society’s concerns, and has put these proposals on hold.
The Law Society also raised concerns over proposals for a new Unexplained Wealth Order, which would force an individual to prove that assets had been lawfully obtained, submitting that this was a breach of the presumption of innocence and required proper judicial scrutiny. The government has now announced it will implement these proposals using existing powers that have proper judicial oversight, ensuring the rights of individuals are protected.