What is Anti-Money Laundering (AML) in Law Firms?

17/01/2022
Written by: Ieuan Leigh 

"The main goal of money laundering is to make illegally obtained funds appear legal"

What is Money Laundering?

Have you ever wondered what is anti-money laundering in law firms? Money laundering is a process by which an individual, company, or organisation can disguise the original ownership of their proceeds from criminal activity. The term was coined in the early 1900s by a Scottish police officer named William Taylor when dealing with cases involving Chinese organised crime groups where money from opium and narcotics sales in Britain was sent to China to be laundered, and returned to Britain as tea or silk.

Money laundering can happen in many ways. One way is for criminals to launder their money through a series of transactions to make it seem like the funds come from a legitimate sources. They may do this by simply depositing cash into a bank account and withdrawing it later, or by buying goods with the funds and reselling them for cash. For example, criminals and corrupt officials tend to launder their money through real estate, especially luxury property in foreign countries, which cannot be traced back to them. 

Another way money laundering can happen is through trade-based money laundering (TBML). This happens when criminals use fake invoices on trade transactions with countries that don't have strict anti-money laundering (AML) policies in place to make it appear like they are trading goods between countries legitimately when they are not.

How does Money Laundering work?

Money laundering is the process of transforming the proceeds of crime and corruption into ostensibly legitimate money or other assets.

The first step in money laundering is to place the illegal funds in an appropriate financial institution. The launderer will then make deposits into their own bank, or buy stocks, bonds, or even precious metals like gold. The launderer will then withdraw this money as needed for personal use.

The main goal of money laundering is to make illegally obtained funds appear legal by following three steps: placement, layering, and integration. Placement is when someone takes dirty cash and puts it into some sort of investment or other form, layering can be the different purchases of assets, and integration would be the investment in real estate or luxury items. 

But, money laundering is becoming more and more difficult to with increased laws around it.

What is the Purpose of Anti-Money Laundering Laws?

Anti-money laundering law is a set of statutes, regulations, and other legal requirements administered by governments designed to stop people from setting up businesses on behalf of criminals so that they can launder money. AML laws are a type of preventive legislation which is meant to stop money from being laundered through normal businesses.

The purpose of anti-money laundering law is to stop the flow of illegal money through legitimate means. It does so by imposing strict requirements on banks and other financial institutions in order to disclose any suspicious activities or transactions they may come across.

There are strict regulations in other organisational groups too such as law firms, accountancies, wealth management firms, real estate firms, to ensure that the clients they are working with do not launder their money. 

What are Some Common Red Flags for Money Laundering and Financial Fraud?

A common example of a red flag is the use of multiple accounts to make transactions. If a client is depositing large sums of money from multiple accounts, it can ring alarm bells around the placement of cash and therefore money laundering. Equally, if a person is receiving a lot more money in their account than what their yearly salary suggests, this should also be a red flag for firms. 

There are many contributors to financial fraud, some of which are not always intentional. Someone may be at risk for committing fraud if they are unknowingly violating financial guidelines. They may also be at risk if they have a history of negligence or irresponsibility that can be seen in their recent transactions. If someone happens to fall into using or processing laundered money unintentionally, they are still at risk of prosecution. Therefore, ensuring you know exactly where the funds or assets have come from is essential. 

How can you prevent Money Laundering and Financial Fraud?

The key way that firms can work to prevent money laundering is by not only tightening their processes for checking their clients' funds, but by investing in relevant technology that can speed up the process, reduce the human error, and can provide deep checks into individuals and companies. 

At Validient, we pride ourselves on world-leading quality around Know your Business (KYB), Know your Customer (KYC), AML, Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) and Ongoing Monitoring in real-time. If you'd like to find out a bit more around how we can help, then please get in touch on info@validient.com or book a demo using the button below. 

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