Speaking at the weekend, Jon McNally, head of the economic crime unit at the National Criminal Intelligence Service, said he was ‘frustrated’ that accountants and lawyers had done relatively little to help the police since September 11.
McNally told The Guardian that many firms were not making appropriate checks to ensure clients were honest and dealing with legitimate funds.
According to NCIS figures, motoring organisations such as the AA and the RAC have submitted more reports than accountants in recent years.
Banks are also submitting more suspicious transactions reports, a trend that helped generate 31,251 reports last year, up 70% on the previous year. NCIS attributes this to the aftermath of 11 September and the focus on terrorist finances. It expects a further rise in response to new anti-terrorist legislation.
But only 0.35% of the total were referrals from accountants. Lawyers accounted for 1% of reported transactions.
McNally told The Guardian that the police would not hesitate to use new laws to prosecute lawyers and accountants who failed to show ‘due diligence’ by effectively turning a blind eye to corrupt activity. He said: ‘Half of all money laundering cases involve funds handled by solicitors or accountants, yet the number of reports we get from them is low.
‘There’s no doubt that some firms could be more diligent. They have to understand where money is coming from and where it is going to. Solicitors and accountants need to know their customers.’
Mr McNally also said that the professions ‘may benefit from an independent review’ of their practices.
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