There’s nothing new about money laundering, a problem the International Monetary Fund estimates costs the world economy a sum roughly equivalent to the GDP of Spain.
And there’s nothing new about the measures the government has announced to tackle it in the last fortnight as part of the UK’s contribution to the war on terror. Licensing of bureaux de change, for instance, was a step recommended by the international Financial Action Task Force on money laundering some four years ago.
But there is a danger that accountants – and lawyers – emerge as the bad guys. FATF has warned these professionals are vulnerable, as money launderers would seek them out to add – knowingly or otherwise – implied credibility to suspicious financial transactions.
The National Criminal Intelligence Service frequently condemns accountants and lawyers for failing to report what it sees as anything like enough transactions. Much of the responsibility for money laundering must rest with the banks and bureaux. But through the government and the FSA these areas are being tightened up. And you can bet the banks in particular will make sure the world knows this is happening.
The FSA takes responsibility for accountants conducting investment business in December. Its money laundering rules will bite accountants then. Before that though it would be good to see accountants tell the wider world that they too are playing their part in this battle.
Accountancy Age often condemns accountants for failing to trumpet successes.
But at a time like this accountants should be arguing – loudly – that when it comes to fighting money laundering, their own house is very much in order.
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