New Bill could put accountants in prison.

Current legislation under the Money Laundering Act of 1993 only allows for the prosecution of an employee working in the finance sector, who fails to report evidence of money laundering if it can be proved they were aware of illicit operations, and choose to do nothing.

But under the draft Proceeds of Crime Bill, introduced by home secretary Jack Straw yesterday, an employee could be jailed for up to five years if a court can prove they should have known another person was engaged in money laundering.

A Home Office spokesperson said the proposal would apply to ‘accountants conducting relevant financial business’ within the regulated sector.

To prove culpability, according to the guidelines, the Home Office has proposed the introduction of a ‘negligence test’ to determine whether the defendant had sufficient and relevant access to ‘guidance issued by a supervising authority’ on money laundering. Other measures in the draft Bill include the right to seize property suspected to have been acquired through criminal activities and the power to tax suspected criminal assets.

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