OPBAS was set up last year as part of the government’s plan to eradicate money laundering in the UK. It oversees 22 professional bodies representing the accountancy and legal sectors and is keen to clamp down on professional “enablers” of money laundering, particularly accountants and lawyers who give cover to illicit funds.
Announcing the findings of OPBA’s maiden report, Alison Barker, the FCA’s director of specialist supervision, said: “The accountancy sector and many smaller professional bodies focus on representing their members, rather than robustly supervising standards. Partly because they don’t believe — or don’t want to believe — that there is any money laundering in their sector. Partly because they believe that their memberships will walk if they come under scrutiny.”
As the government tries to stem the flow of dirty money in Britain, accountants and legal firms are not the only ones coming under investigation. Last week, Mortgage Solutions reported that five estate agencies were fined for failing to adhere to money laundering regulations, prompting HMRC to take an in-depth look at the estate agency sector.
Mortgage brokers are not required to sign up for anti-money laundering supervision by regulators in the same way as lenders, solicitors and estate agents. However, in its guidance to brokers, the FCA has warned that, without processes for reporting suspicious activity, advisers may be at risk of committing money laundering offences, or falling foul of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.