Finding yourself or your business under investigation for money laundering can be a worrying experience. Convictions can lead to lengthy prison sentences, damaged reputation, and even the failure of your enterprise.
That’s why working with trained solicitors who understand this area of law is essential. Legal professionals can assist your defence and maximise the likelihood of a favourable outcome.
Money laundering is a technique that involves funnelling dirty money through the financial system to make it clean. Criminals take stolen or fraudulently-obtained currency and make it appear as if it came from a legitimate source using financial sleight-of-hand.
Historically, money laundering only referred to transferring or concealing the origins of money obtained illegally, such as through a bank raid. Money launderers would use various techniques to make their money appear legitimate.
Today, it can also refer to failing to comply with the Money Laundering Regulations 2017. Businesses, such as banks, building societies, and law firms, must demonstrate measures to prevent money laundering by collecting appropriate client information. Companies that fail to comply may have to go through a National Crime Agency (NCA) investigation or face regulatory penalties.
Several UK agencies have the power to investigate money laundering in the UK. For example, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has an Economic Crime command unit focusing on illegal financial activities, including money laundering. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) may also investigate alleged cases in the financial sector, ensuring markets are open and fair.
HMRC is another agency with the power to investigate money laundering cases. The tax authority’s Fraud Investigation Service regularly deals with money laundering and financial crimes.
Sentences for money laundering can be severe. According to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, the crime can carry up to 14 years in prison and a large fine.
The amount convicted criminals must pay in fines reflects how much money was involved in laundering activities. The severity can reflect various factors, such as the scale of the money laundering operation and the specific circumstances of the case.
For instance, penalties are likely to be worse if the money laundering supported terrorism or a crime syndicate. Prison sentences may also be longer if criminals used complex or sophisticated systems to hide money’s origins.
Still, options do exist for mitigating sentences. Cooperating with law enforcement officials, for instance, can lower sentences, as can pleading a diminished degree of awareness of money laundering activities.
If you have been accused of money laundering, you should speak to experienced lawyers immediately. Professional solicitors can help you comply with Money Laundering Regulations 2017 and defend you against criminal investigations.
Law enforcement agencies may want to interview you or issue compulsory document requests. Officials may also execute search warrants of your home and offices, seize property, or freeze your accounts.
Working with a lawyer improves your defence and ensures you get clear, actionable advice on how to navigate the situation. Solicitors tell you what you need to do next, and why if you are facing a money laundering charge.