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Money Laundering and POCA Investigations and Prosecutions

Money laundering is estimated to cost the UK more than £100 billion every year, which is why this crime is vigorously regulated. Money laundering is not only considered a threat to the financial system in Britain but is also thought to incentivise crime, increase cash flow for organised crime and assist with funding further criminal activities. Individuals and businesses must stay ahead of compliance by taking specialist legal advice from a professional Money Laundering Solicitor.

Here at Saunders Law, we have decades of experience in helping clients who have been accused of money laundering. The consequences of breaching money laundering regulations are severe, which is why we offer a tenacious approach and robust legal representation to ensure you and your company’s reputation remains intact during an investigation.

What is Money Laundering?

Money laundering is the process in which you “clean” money used in criminal proceedings to disguise the fact that it came from illicit origins. Criminals will try and use safe havens to hide their profits and avoid detection. Generally, money laundering is performed by introducing illegal money into the financial system and making it appear to be legitimate company assets. This does not always have to be in monetary form – it can also be done via land and buildings, technology and intellectual property.

Can you Accidentally Commit Money Laundering?

Individuals and businesses may become unintentionally involved in the acquisition or transfer of money which is, or could be, the proceeds of criminal activity. This is a complicated area of law and without the correct legal advice can lead to serious consequences if regulations are not complied with – even when this is accidental. If you are the subject of a money-laundering investigation, get in touch with our professional Criminal Defence Solicitors today.

How Does Money Laundering Work?

There are generally three stages for money laundering, and investigations into money laundering can happen at any point in the process:

  • First, the illegal money is placed in the financial system (placement).
  • Second, the money is moved through the financial system by various complicated transactions, which can often involve the use of companies overseas (layering).
  • Finally, the money becomes part of the economy and the person who initiated the money laundering gets their money back (integration).

A person can commit money laundering on their own behalf, which is known as self-laundering, or on behalf of a third party.

What are POCA Investigations and Prosecutions?

Money laundering primarily falls under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) 2002 and the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer Regulations) 2017. The legislation places certain duties on the regulated sector, extending far beyond those who only offer financial services.

Under POCA, there are three main offences where a convicted person would be liable to a fine, up to 14 years imprisonment, or both:

  • Concealing, converting, disguising, transferring or removing criminal property from England and Wales. This usually applies to self-laundering offences.
  • Entering into, or being concerned in, an arrangement that facilitates the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property, by or on behalf of another person. Generally, this will be applied where the launderer is not the main offender in the illegal activity.
  • Acquiring, using or having possession of criminal property. This is typically intended to prosecute the end person in the chain, for example, if they buy a house or car from the original criminal.

According to the regulations, criminal property is any property that is a benefit from criminal conduct (either directly, indirectly, in whole or in part). The act that the launderer performs (such as transferring or concealing the criminal property) must be done with the knowledge or suspicion that it derived from criminal conduct for a money laundering offence to have been committed. However, where an authorised disclosure is made before the money laundering occurs, then a criminal offence has not been committed.

Failure to Report Money Laundering Activity – is it an Offence?

It is a criminal offence to fail to disclose money laundering offences in the course of business under the suspicious activity report (SAR) system, or to fail to disclose a SAR to the UK Financial Intelligence Unit when it has been made. It is also a criminal offence to inform a third party (including customers) that their money laundering activity has been reported as this could affect an investigation.

It is not just criminals who can fall under investigation for money laundering. Businesses also need to aware of the risks and implications they could face if they do not fully comply with the law. Over the years, the obligation to ensure that businesses are complying with regulations, as well as satisfying the necessary controls, have increased. The money laundering regulations impose further duties on regulated companies to ensure they carry out the relevant checks and due diligence on their customers, keep records on the identity of customers for five years, and make sure they have suitable policies and procedures in place to detect any unusual activity.

Restraint Orders

Those under investigation for money laundering usually find themselves the subject of a restraint order, which freezes their assets. Those convicted of money laundering can also face confiscation proceedings, meaning that any criminal benefit that they are deemed to have received must be repaid. These orders can have a major impact on a person’s life, which is why it is essential to get specialist legal advice if you are facing a money laundering investigation.

Contact our Money Laundering and POCA Defence Solicitors London

At Saunders Law, we can assist clients in high-profile and serious criminal cases to obtain justice, including cases of money laundering and POCA investigations. We have an in-depth understanding of the law and can build a robust defence using our unique, strategic approach to serious crime, as well as using our expert advocacy skills to represent you in court. Our professional lawyers understand the stress caused in these situations because of the serious impact it can have on all aspects of your life. We can support you through the entire process. 

Our crime department is widely recognised as a leader in its field and is highly ranked by The Legal 500, Chambers and The Lawyer’s Hot 100. For a free, no-obligation, initial discussion, please contact us today on 020 3811 3123 or using our online enquiry form.

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