BusinessCompany NewsSFO warns off accountants

SFO warns off accountants

The pressure on accountants to help in the fight against money laundering was ratcheted up this week when the Serious Fraud Office moved to remind the profession of its obligations.

Link: No funds for fraud battle

In a speech that spelt out how prosecuting accountants acts as a clear deterrent to deliberately aiding financial crime, SFO director Rosalind Wright reminded the industry that it is increasingly in the ‘frontline for fraud prevention’.

She said that ‘carefully targeted prosecutions’ ensures financial crime does not pay and added: ‘The mere fact that a solicitor or accountant has been investigated or charged with a criminal offence (whether or not he is ultimately convicted) can send shock waves through the profession and result in more care and thought being devoted to the propriety of some clients instructions.’

Speaking at the 20th annual Cambridge Symposium on Economic Crime, Wright made plain the SFO’s concern about the participation of accountants and lawyers in financial crime and declared that a radical change was necessary.

‘What is needed is a sea-change in culture which rejects money laundering and regards it as unacceptable to accept money from dubious sources.

‘Professionals must be prepared to look long and hard at dubious transactions before accepting the money – no matter how attractive the business looks,’ said Wright.

Despite Wright’s tough stance many believe the SFO is in the process of ‘laying off’ accountants until a plethora of new legislation comes into force at the end of the year.

One financial crime specialist in accountancy said: ‘It seemed better than we had expected.’ The law on financial crime is to change so radically that observers believe the authorities are waiting to see what effects it will have.

The Proceeds of Crime Act has created a series of new offences as well as a new objective test for making suspicious transaction reports in the financial sector.

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