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UK businesses face money laundering threat under Treasury shake-up

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UK businesses could be exposed to greater risks of money laundering under new proposals being put forward by the UK government, warns the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).

Plans being considered in a new consultation issued by HM Treasury include using a single private company to police anti-money laundering (AML) rules for accountants and lawyers who work with businesses to protect them against financial crime.

Currently, accountants follow strict laws on money laundering. Their compliance with these regulations is checked and overseen by specialist professional body supervisors, ensuring businesses are protected from economic crime. The National Crime Agency estimates that the amount of money laundered in the UK could be between £36 billion and £90 billion.

The relatively unknown consultation is considering proposals to consolidate AML supervision to just one body, potentially a single private company, to oversee all of the accountancy profession. AAT has warned that this could cause enormous disruption, expose businesses to money laundering risk, and weaken AML oversight across the country.

Adam Harper, Director of Professional Standards and Policy at AAT, warned: “AAT members and other accountants have to meet strict anti-money laundering regulations to ensure their clients are not at risk. Some of the government’s new proposals, including plans to create a private body to police money laundering rules for all professional services, could potentially open the floodgates to organised criminals seeking to launder money in the UK.

“The current system, whilst not perfect, ensures that each profession meets anti-money laundering rules which are tailored to their specific professions. Dramatically shifting to a new model, as set out in some of the Treasury’s plans, could lose that specialist know-how and weaken the anti-money laundering system that is in place.

“We are urging the Treasury to strengthen the current system rather than attempt to dismantle and rebuild the whole AML regime, which brings with it major risks for the UK’s small and medium sized businesses, who make up the backbone of UK plc.”

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