Laundering exemptions only ‘limited’

Accountants have been warned that changes to money laundering regulations
will provide them with reporting obligations on a par with lawyers and
solicitors, but will not give carte blanche protection.

The Privy Council approved changes to anti money laundering law this week,
which will give accountants the same legal privilege as lawyers when reporting
suspicious transactions to the National Criminal Intelligence Service.

But accounting institutes have warned that the change was limited, and does
not give wider privileges to the profession. ‘This is a specific change to the
qualified accountants’ duty to report knowledge or suspicion of money
laundering,’ said Karen Silcock, chairman of the ICAEW’s money laundering
working party.

ACCA head of business law John Davies added that the move had ‘not opened the
floodgates’ to allow accountants to avoid reporting obligations.

Felicity Banks, ICAEW head of business law, also warned that the exemption
affected ‘a relatively narrow range of our member services, and will need to be
applied with care’.

The accounting profession has been fighting for equal rights over the
provision of legal privileged services for over 18 months. Lawyers argued that
they were the only professionals that should have privilege in money laundering

In addition to the regulations, a new money laundering crackdown was
announced by chancellor Gordon Brown this week to fight the financing of
terrorist organisations.

The chancellor will set up a new forum to bring the government and the
financial services sector together to deal with terrorist threats. He intends to
strengthen the Treasury’s asset-freezing capabilities, consider founding a
special agency for this task and review, with the Home Office, how to safeguard
charities from infiltration.

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