New watchdog to close money laundering loopholes

New watchdog to close money laundering loopholes

The government has set up a new watchdog, the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) to close money laundering and terrorist financing loopholes.

The watchdog will tackle weaknesses in the supervisory system that criminals and terrorists may be trying to exploit by raising standards across the regime and ensure supervisors and law enforcement work together more effectively. 

There are 25 anti-money laundering (AML) supervisors in the UK, 22 of which are accountancy, estate agents and legal services providers’ professional bodies.

The government has said that having several organisations supervising the same sectors risks inconsistencies which criminals may look to exploit. Research showed serious and organised crime costs the UK at least £24bn a year.

Stephen Barclay, the economic secretary to the Treasury, said: “The government is delivering the biggest reforms in a decade to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing.

“The new watchdog will work closely with private sector, strengthening our partnership to ensure the UK remains a global leader in the fight against corruption.

“We are making sure that businesses do not have to shoulder unnecessary burdens while taking the vital steps to disrupt and punish criminals.”

OPBAS will work with those professional body AML supervisors to help ensure consistently high standards of supervision, with resources focused on the greatest risks whilst minimising unnecessary burdens on the vast majority of legitimate businesses.

It will have powers to help and ensure professional body AML supervisors meet those standards. These include the powers to publicly censure or recommend HM Treasury remove professional bodies that do not comply with their requirements in the money laundering regulations.

There will also be safeguards so professional bodies have opportunities to engage with OPBAS before any penalty is issued and, if necessary, to appeal a decision.