The regulations will require accountants to file reports on any suspicious transactions to the National Criminal Intelligence Service, or face a potential prison term of up to 15 years. The rules will come into force on 1 March 2004.
Accountants who argue that they did not spot money-laundering activity through negligence or ignorance will not be able to avoid prosecution, unless there is proof they were not trained to a sufficient level. At that point the firm itself would become liable.
There is also no minimum level for the amount of money involved in a suspicious transaction before it must be reported, which means accountants will have to keep a keen eye on all transactions running through all of their clients’ books.
It was originally thought that the laws would be in force by September, but wrangling between government departments over the fine detail of the regulations had constantly put back the launch date.
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