Money laundering

The UK’s Money Laundering Regulations 2007 apply to certain identified persons when they conduct business. Supervision of compliance with the Regulations is divided between relevant industry regulators who may, in certain circumstances, impose civil penalties for breaches. Sector-specific ‘best practice’ guidance has been produced by supervisors, enforcement authorities and industry bodies such as the Joint Money Laundering Steering Group (JMLSG).

Courts and regulators may take account of compliance with such relevant guidance as exists when deciding whether an offence has been committed, and are obliged to do so where the guidance has been approved by HM Treasury.

Money laundering is criminalised in the UK by the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA), Part 7, which consolidated and strengthened the previously fragmented anti-money laundering regime in the UK. It provides that a money laundering offence may be committed by dealing with the known or suspected proceeds of any criminal conduct (‘criminal property’), however small the amount and in whatever form, in one of the following ways:

• Concealing, disguising, converting, transferring or removing criminal property;
• Entering into, or becoming concerned with, an arrangement known or suspected to facilitate the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property; or
• Acquiring, using or possessing criminal property, other than in return for adequate consideration.

All three money laundering offences are punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment. For a successful money laundering prosecution it is not necessary to prove that the property suspected to be ‘criminal property’ was, in fact, the proceeds of a crime. Nor is it necessary to prove the particular type of offence known or suspected to give rise to the ‘criminal property’, if the circumstances in which the property is handled give rise to an irresistible inference that it can only be derived from a criminal offence.