• However, UK anti-money laundering regime considered among the best in the world

• Accountants are “gatekeepers” of the financial system

The success of the UK’s Anti-Money Laundering regime is being hindered by a disjointed approach, lack of connectivity and co-ordination between organisations, respondents say in a new report from CCAB, the collective forum of accountancy bodies, made up of ICAEW, ACCA, ICAS, CIPFA and Chartered Accountants Ireland.

The report “Coming out in the wash” is based on the views of leading accountancy and business practitioners, policymakers and law enforcement officials in the anti-money laundering sphere.

Despite this, the general view is  that while the UK’s anti-money laundering regime is considered to be among the best deterrents, more could be done to strengthen it, including more sharing of information in a timely manner between the relevant organisations involved in tackling money laundering, greater effectiveness in cracking down on cross-border laundering, as well as more resources across all sectors.

They also say that there are misperceptions of the UK’s anti-money laundering regime, of what the regulation is for and the role of professionals in the regime. Their solution to tackle this is the need for a communications drive that focuses on business, and the general public to communicate the valuable work of professions.

The report also claims that more can be done to achieve regulatory consistency of those providing accountancy services under the UK’s anti-money laundering framework, with respondents asserting that those accountants who are regulated by recognised professional bodies are subject to more rigorous controls than those from unrecognised bodies who are monitored by HMRC.

Anthony Harbinson, chair of CCAB, Director of Safer Communities, Northern Ireland Department of Justice, said:

“The purpose of this report was to see what was working, what wasn’t and where we need to go as a profession in the future to play a full and effective role in the collective effort to tackle organised crime.

GBP Notes (PD)“Clearly, across the accountancy profession, AML measures are taken seriously, but the system, although recognised as being among the best in tackling money laundering, is far from perfect. The paper aims to identify where we can work with others in a joined-up approach, to communicate successes and the role of the profession in tackling money laundering, as the regime is implemented by more  EU member states and extended by the fourth money laundering directive. It should give food for thought to the authorities on what might be done, in statutory and other terms, to enhance the effectiveness of the regime.

“While AML poses challenges to be tackled by the professions, businesses, government and crime fighting agencies collectively, the accountancy profession is keen to play a key  role in that effort. However, we cannot do it alone.

“Policy makers and regulators have to address the risks posed by unqualified accountants who are perceived as less effective in detecting and guarding against this kind of financial crime. Equally, cross border efforts and the sharing of intelligence is a prerequisite of maintaining an effective system.”

The future of AML

According to the report, research participants think that in future, there will be a greater emphasis on information sharing between stakeholders involved in the AML regime, coupled with a better awareness of AML, especially among businesses and the general public. They also expect to see tighter regulation, with more control of the unregulated sector and a more standardised approach across accountancy firms and the regulated sector.

Anthony Harbinson said:

“Organised criminals are well resourced and innovative. Whenever new opportunities present themselves they will be exploited for their potential as devices for laundering money – the current spread of mobile payment technologies is a good example of the dynamic environment we are dealing with. To meet this evolving challenge, all those operating in the financial sector need to maintain the same commitment and professionalism in tackling financial crimes, including those who are currently unregulated or unqualified.”

Read the full report http://www.ccab.org.uk/documents/FinalReport.pdf.

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