The Treasury is not ruling out using the government’s anti-terrorism crackdown to tighten money laundering disclosure rules on lawyers and accountants.
The National Criminal Intelligence Service has warned repeatedly that the professions disclose very few suspicious financial transactions ‘despite their relative attractiveness to launderers’.
Fears are now mounting that they could be targeted as part of an Emergency Terrorism Bill expected within four to six weeks.
Accountancy Age also understands that ministers are considering using the bill to force improved data sharing between the Inland Revenue, Customs and law enforcement agencies.
If enhanced disclosure requirements are not included the government is expected to focus on the Proceeds of Crime Bill and a new European Union money laundering directive requiring similar levels of disclosure from accountants and solicitors to those already required by banks.
A Treasury spokesman told Accountancy Age this week that while steps to tackle money laundering and freezing of suspected terrorist assets were being considered, it was ‘too early to say what industries we are looking at’.
The Financial Action Task Force, the Paris-based money laundering watchdog, sees the UK as an obvious target for launderers given its position as one of the world’s leading financial centres.
FATF executive secretary Patrick Moulette is canvassing its 31 member countries on how it should respond to calls by several governments for a swift, joint effort to prevent terrorists’ misuse of the global financial system. UK delegates – including NCIS, Customs, the Treasury and the Financial Services Authority – have been told to respond rapidly.
The FSA itself, which assumes responsibility for accountants conducting investment business in December, confirmed to Accountancy Age that it is to place greater emphasis on money laundering.
‘In the heated atmosphere post September 11 there will definitely be more attention devoted to this area,’ a spokesman said.
For more details on the Financial Action Task Force’s plans, go to www.fatf-gafi.org.
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