Plans for radical reform of the UK prison system have quickly dominated the headlines following today’s Queen’s Speech. But in a list of proposed new laws that seems to have something for everyone – from measures to encourage the spread of high speed broadband and driverless cars to local bus services and tackling childhood obesity – it’s good to see that money laundering has not been forgotten.
(A bit of background for readers outside the UK who may not be familiar with the Queen’s Speech: sadly, it’s not the sequel to the Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech, it’s the announcement at the start of the parliamentary year, in a speech written by the government and delivered by the Queen, of the legislation that the government plans to bring forward over the next 12 months.)
In terms of what the Queen actually said in the speech, money laundering had the briefest of mentions in a commitment to introduce legislation ‘to tackle corruption, money laundering and tax evasion’.
And the background briefing notes to the Queen’s Speech don’t really put a lot more flesh on the bones, although the summary they give of the main elements of the proposed Criminal Finances Bill suggests it will be a pretty significant piece of legislation, with measures including:
- a new criminal offence for companies that fail to stop staff facilitating tax evasion, something first flagged up in the 2015 Budget
- reform of the suspicious activity report regime, as included in the recent Action Plan for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist finance, which was the focus of this recent ICT Views post
- making it easier for law enforcement and the courts to recover criminal assets, particularly where they are linked to grand corruption, which also featured in the Action Plan.
Back in December 2015, HM Revenue & Customs published a report including responses to an initial consultation on the new tax evasion offence, along with draft legislation. The report indicated that there could be some valuable lessons to be learned from anti money laundering regimes and compliance best practice, saying:
During the course of the consultation, the majority of those spoken to stated that they do not routinely or systematically monitor for illegal acts carried out by their staff during the course of business. Those consulted were able to demonstrate compliance with theAnti-Money Laundering Regulations and Know Your Customer due diligence,but stated that they did not routinely or systematically monitor for whether their staff were seeking to deliberately provide services to facilitate tax fraud.
The draft legislation also makes clear that – along very similar lines to the Bribery Act 2010 – it would be a defence for a firm accused of failing to prevent tax evasion offences by its staff if:
(a) it had in place procedures designed to prevent persons associated withit from committing tax evasion facilitation offences, and
(b) its procedures were reasonable in all the circumstances.
Of course, depending on the outcome of the UK’s EU referendum on 23 June, and the almost inevitable political fallout that will follow – whatever form that may take – the Criminal Finances Bill might remain nothing more than a promise in the Queen’s Speech or it could be implemented as set out today. It’s a case of watch this space, and as spaces go, it’s an interesting one to keep your eye on.
Keeping up to date on developments in anti money laundering, compliance and financial crime prevention, like those promised today, is crucial for professionals working in these disciplines, which is why the ICA’s qualifications are always evolving, to reflect ongoing changes, while always retaining their focus on building lifelong skills, such as critical thinking, analytical ability and effective decision-making.
If you would like to find out more, we’re running a series of free information sessions at locations around the world in 2016, so why not book your place to find out how an ICA qualification could help enhance your career?