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Dirty Money? Anti-Money laundering legislation needs to be clean

Dirty Money? Anti-Money laundering legislation needs to be clean

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

4 min read Partner content

Ewan Willars, Director of Policy at Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, responds to Stephen Barclay MP's article on the Government's new anti corruption plans.

Stephen Barclay MP’s articleabout the Government's new anti-corruption plans was certainly a thought provoking read.

The Government’s Anti-Corruption plan, alongside World Anti-Corruption day on the 9 December, reminded me of research conducted only a few months ago by CCAB (the collective forum of accountancy bodies, made up of ICAEW, ACCA, ICAS, CIPFA and Chartered Accountants Ireland).

We got together to do this research as tackling money laundering and corruption is a global issue, and one for the whole of the profession to tackle, regardless of the professional body to which they belong.

It is also an issue in which accountants and the finance profession can become embroiled, dare I say it, either willingly or by association.

It is ACCA’s belief, and that of the CCAB, that collectively the profession has to get involved in tackling corruption and fraud. This was a key finding from the CCAB research – Coming Out in the Wash – which warned that a lack of joined up approach between policy makers, business and other authorities such as the police, posed money laundering threats.

The good news is that the research, consisting of 31 qualitative in-depth interviews with senior experts involved in this field, showed that the UK’s anti-money laundering regime is considered among the best in the world. Respondents also said that accountants are “gatekeepers” of the financial systems – both domestic and international.

But the bad news is that the success of the UK’s Anti-Money Laundering regime was being hindered by a disjointed approach, lack of connectivity and co-ordination between organisations.

While the regime was considered to be among the best, respondents also said more could be done to strengthen it, including more timely sharing of information 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.

This would include financial investment, trained and skilled people, IT and communications infrastructures – especially when it comes to sharing information and intelligence across agencies and countries.

Amongst the main solutions was a relatively simple one – communicate better and communicate more. Respondents said a communications drive would be beneficial – one that focuses on businesses, and the general public, to communicate the valuable work of professions in tackling fraud, corruption and anti-money laundering. We don’t shout enough about how we tackle this massive problem already, nor the bigger role we could play in the future.

So to tackle fraud, corruption and money laundering, we need to talk about the issue more, and place it in clear sunlight, where the glare of publicity can and will help to check this problem.

In this data drive 24-7 connected world, organised criminals and gangs are more well-resourced and innovative than ever before. We need to be vigilant to exploitation, so that everyone working in the financial sector – not just in London - maintains the same commitment and professionalism in tackling financial crimes.

And the finance world isn’t the sole domain of corruption either. Transparency International’s corruption barometer for 2013 shows that 32% of people in the UK think that corruption has increased a lot. The media, political parties, and legislators scored the highest from respondents, saying these institutions were corrupt/extremely corrupt. Business came out at 49%.

During economically turbulent times, the temptation to misstate finds, to cut corners, becomes more tempting. Accountants can stop this happening; they can and do blow the whistle. As a global profession, we need to play a full and effective role in the collective effort to tackle organised crime, across borders and across time zones. We need to highlight successes more, especially as the regime is adopted and implemented by more EU member states, and extended by the fourth money laundering directive.

We know the system is far from perfect – more can and should be done. And that is why I congratulate Stephen Barclay MP for writing about this issue and placing it in the sunlight – albeit during December.

Read Stephen Barclay MP's full article here.

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