SRA warns profession needs to be alert to money laundering

The SRA has today published its autumn update of the Risk Outlook and warned that the legal profession remains a high risk for money laundering, with phony investment schemes one of the biggest dangers.

The SRA produces the Outlook every year to outline the key risks that could affect law firms so that they can take action to prevent them affecting clients. The update emphasises the ongoing risks around money laundering. The recent National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing 2017 says the legal sector remains at high risk of exploitation for money laundering. The level of risk varies by type of legal transaction, with trust and company formation, conveyancing, and misuse of client accounts being assessed as the biggest risks. The National Crime Agency’s latest Suspicious Activity Reports Annual Report meanwhile says that while the overall the number of reports has gone up by 10 percent in 2016, legal sector submissions have reduced by almost 10 percent.

The fifth Outlook, which came out in July, identified eight priority risks for the sector, including challenges such as dubious investment schemes, IT security (involving cybercrime and identity fraud) and access to legal services. The autumn update provides new information on these risks. Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “Keeping the profession free of money laundering is in everyone’s interest. It means that we can disrupt serious crime – crime that funds everything from terrorists to people traffickers. “Solicitors have an important role to play and the majority want to do the right thing, but no one afford to be complacent. This is a high risk for the profession and we must all step up to deal with the challenge.” The new money laundering regulations place new requirements on supervisors to hold information about those they supervise. Although the SRA already holds information about the profession, they now require further information and will be sending out a questionnaire in due course.

The Outlook’s autumn update can be found here:
Go to the update
The National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing 2017 can be found here:
Go to the assessment
The National Crime Agency’s latest Suspicious Activity Reports Annual Report can be found here:
Go to the annual report