Last week saw the latest crackdown by UK police on potential money laundering operations, concentrating their efforts on a series of raids on bureau de change, in an effort to identify and cut off a major money laundering route for drugs money and other
organised criminal activities.
This latest development probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that has been keeping track of the fight against money laundering.
As far back as 2010, a report by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had identified bureau de change and money services businesses as systemic weakness, and they have remained a key target for law enforcement efforts. Since that time, we have seen a
strengthening of the anti-money laundering regulations, and therefore rules regarding the identification of those using these services and the controls that should be in place, particularly for larger cash transactions.
Yet still the problems persist.
It is only a few years since the owner of a London-based bureau de change and two of his employees were jailed for successfully laundering more than £100 million of criminal cash through their branches. And as ever with these types of crimes, that is likely
to have only been the tip of the iceberg. And clearly police believe these types of operations continue to exist.
The most recent move is part of the wider effort to turn a current weakness in the system that protects the economy from money laundering, to a resilient, protective environment that is better able to prevent and indeed identify and flag where such activities
are taking place.
For that to succeed firstly requires even small bureau de change to fully understand their anti-money laundering obligations. And then for them to apply and then continue to assess and assure that the controls they have in place – at a branch and at a business
level – are applied and fully maintained.
The risk of not complying with regulations is very clear – money laundering and criminal activity gets an easier ride, and the owners of these businesses ultimately face jail. The net is tightening – and not every business is prepared.