Athena Solicitors LLP (trading as “Athena Law”)
Money Laundering Regulations – Policy Controls and Procedures Statement.
21st November 2022 Edition
The Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 (“the Regulations”) require us to publish our policy on these matters to all Partners employees and clients. It is on our Intranet and Website.
The firm takes its obligations arising the Regulations extremely seriously and recognises the importance of having in place stringent procedure and controls to prevent criminals from using the firm to launder money. It is accordingly important that all Partners and employees read this policy carefully. For the avoidance of any doubt any failure on the part of any Partner or employee to comply with the Regulations, this policy and ancillary procedures will result in disciplinary action which may include dismissal for gross misconduct, prosecution by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and/or under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
This policy will be reviewed annually or as soon as reasonably practicable following any changes to the law or regulatory guidance relevant to Money Laundering.
- S.R.A. Nominated Officers – Money Laundering
The firm’s officers are: Paul Willan MLRO (reporting officer) and Stephen Boyd MLCO (Compliance Officer).
Contact details: 0161 839 8847 / 0771 878 5556
Email address – email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
All partners staff and employees and clients should report any suspicious activity to Paul as MLRO. He is available to discuss any matters relating to the firm’s policies and procedures in regards to the Money Laundering Regulations and will help employees and clients understand their obligations. He is responsible for receiving disclosures from staff of suspected money laundering and determining whether they warrant the submission of a suspicious activity report (SAR) to the National Crime Agency (NCA). Paul is responsible for the submission of SARs to the NCA where appropriate. In the event that Paul Willan is not available for whatever reason and an urgent client or matter issue arises you should contact Stephen Boyd.
- Client Due Diligence Requirements
Based on the firm’s Practise Wide Risk Assessment, Client Due Diligence (CDD)means our taking steps to identify all Athena’s clients and checking they are who they say they are. This means obtaining a clients’:
- photograph on an official document which confirms their identity
- residential address and date of birth
If we have doubts about a client’s identity, the firm will not continue to deal with them until this is resolved.
Where we are dealing with “non natural persons” – such as a company or LLP or partnership we will require certified copies of the Companies (or other entities’) constitutional documents and the same CDD as for a natural person applied to at least one director, plus identification of the ultimate beneficial owners and / or persons having substantial control. In the case of Companies “significant control” extends to any Director or shareholder who holds more than 25% of the Company’s shares. Overseas entities have new regulations under the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 requiring their registration in the Overseas register at Companies House, and in every such case reference should be made to the MLRO.
We must apply due diligence measures:
- when establishing a business relationship with a client – i.e. commencing work
- if we suspect money laundering or terrorist financing
- considering the purpose of the business relationship or the transaction.
- Assessing risk, including ongoing monitoring of risk.
- if we have doubts about a client’s identification information that we obtained previously
- when it is necessary for existing clients – for example, if their circumstances change
- when we carry out an ‘occasional transaction’ worth £15,000 or more
- or when we make a payment to a supplier worth £10,000 or more;
Client due diligence when establishing a business relationship:
A business relationship is entered into with a client where both of us expect that the relationship will be ongoing, in other words at the outset of our engagement. It can be a formal or an informal arrangement. When a new business relationship is established, information needs to be obtained on:
- the purpose of the relationship
- the intended nature of the relationship – for example, where funds will come from, the purpose of transactions, and so on.
The type of information that needs to be obtained may include:
- details of clients’ business or employment
- the source and origin of funds that our client will be using in the relationship
- copies of recent and current financial statements
- details of the relationships signatories and any underlying beneficial owners
- the expected level and type of activity that will take place in our relationship.
Fee earners must establish source of wealth and source of funds and the level of the evidence required will depend upon the circumstances of the transaction and the risk profile of the Client / Matter. In cases of doubt always consult the MLCO. As a guide, for instance, bank statements can be used to establish regular payments over time in most small or simple cases.
In the event of discrepancies between Beneficial Ownership and information obtained through due diligence checks and what is held on the Companies House register this should be reported to the MLCO and further steps considered.
Enhanced Due Diligence procedures – are to adequately control and to manage higher risk clients/transactions, and measures to establish Source of Funds/Source of Wealth where appropriate. The scope and steps required in Enhanced Due Diligence cases must be agreed and documented with the MLCO.
Simplified Due Diligence may be appropriate for listed entities for instance since they are regulated by their relevant exchange, and in case of doubt please consult the MLCO.
Regulation 39 reliance is where AML compliance is executed by third parties, and it is the firms practise NOT to rely on any such third party CDD save for automated or semi automated computerised systems contracted to the firm and pre-approved by the MLCO such as PSG and Verify.
Timing :- CDD should be undertaken at the commencement of any new client relationship and prior to commencement of work or receipt of funds into client account.
Documents:- Where possible you should see original identification documents. Once seen should take copies and sign the photocopy of the identification document verifying the copy is a true copy of the original. A client who is unwilling to meet in person without a plausible explanation should be treated with suspicion.
The firm recognises that it Is not always possible to meet a client or beneficial owner in person. In these circumstances you should insist that clients have their identifications verified by a reputable third party (such as a solicitor or accountant). Said third party is required to certify that the copy dentification document is a true copy of the original. Alternatively original identification documents should be inspected via video link platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
Cash:- We do not accept cash payments save for cash for our fees and disbursements and subject to a limit of £500 in any 28 day period. If anyone asks to pay a significant sum in case you should make a report to the MRLO.
Cryptocurrency: We do not accept payment in cryptocurrency under any circumstances,
The changing circumstances of clients:
Up-to-date information must be kept on clients and ongoing monitoring conducted during the conduct of a matter so that we can:
- amend our risk assessment of a particular client if their circumstances change
- carry out further due diligence measures if necessary
Changes of circumstances, triggering a need for fresh CDD or enhanced CDD may include:
- a big change in the level or type of business activity
- a change in the ownership structure of a business
When we may need to carry out enhanced due diligence:
- when the client is not physically present when we carry out identification checks
- when we enter into a business relationship with any ‘politically exposed person’ – typically, a non-UK or domestic member of parliament, head of state or government, or government minister and their family members and known close associates
- when we enter into a transaction with a person from a high risk third country identified by the EU
- any other situation where there is a higher risk of money laundering.
- Establishment of Internal Procedures
These procedures are to prevent money laundering. It will be made sure that the firm has adequate internal controls and monitoring systems. These will alert relevant people in the firm if criminals try to use the firm for money laundering. Once a potential threat has been identified, steps will be taken to prevent it and report any suspicious activity to the authorities. We have established appropriate and risk-sensitive policies and procedures relating to:
- client due diligence measures and monitoring checks
- identifying and monitoring clients
- internal control
- risk assessment and management
- compliance management and communication
- appointing a compliance officer if the business is larger or more complex
- identifying the responsibilities of senior managers and providing them with regular information on money laundering risks
- training relevant employees on their anti-money laundering responsibilities
- documenting and updating anti-money laundering policies, controls and procedures
- introducing measures to make sure that the risk of money laundering is taken into account in the day-to-day running of the business.
The firm will return any unsolicited or accidentally deposited funds as soon as identified as such.
Fee earners should report any complex or unusually large transactions, or an unusual pattern of transactions, or those which serve no apparent economic or legal purpose, or which support anonymity to the MLRO.
All reports to the MLRO or to the MLCO should be in writing (usually email) with supporting documents within 24 hours of becoming aware of an issue.
- Establishment of internal training requirements
Athena has a commitment derived from it’s Firm Wide Risk Assessment to training employees so they are aware of their responsibilities within the firm’s policy and procedures and their wider responsibilities under the UK’s anti-money laundering strategy. To this end, we will ensure all individuals within the firm are trained at regular intervals for:
- awareness of the relevant legislation, including Proceeds of Crime Act Part 7 and Terrorism Act Part 3 reporting requirements,
- understanding of their roles and responsibilities under the anti-money laundering regime
- updated on particular threats and alerts for the firm or the profession
- on how to recognise potential suspicious activity
- on what is required to satisfy yourself as to source of client wealth and source of funds being used in connection with any relevant transaction.
- lines of communications for reporting suspicious activity
- the firm’s exposure to risk, and;
- the firm’s client due diligence policies and procedures;
- legal professional privilege and data protection requirements.
- Training will also cover recognition of red flags/risk indicators as relevant to our duties and responsibilities, along with other relevant laws.
- Monitoring controls in place
These ensure policies and procedures are being carried out. Training is available on systems such as PSG and Verify. Fee earners using these should document role of the tool, the data sources it uses, and in what circumstances (clients/matters) it has been used, on each relevant matter file.
The firm will introduce training for any new software or systems adopted
The firm will undertake periodic file reviews every quarter to ensure compliance with this Policy.
- Individual staff members’ commitment to the firm’s policy and procedures
It is important that individuals understand the compliance culture and their roles and responsibilities that is placed upon them. Individuals will understand that penalties imposed including fines and imprisonment applies to individuals as well as the firm. This includes staff promptly reporting any suspicious activity to the nominated officer (Richard). So, individuals will: –
- ensure they understand the firm’s policy and procedures contained in this document
- ensure that during the course of their work for the firm they do no not “turn a blind eye” to the obvious. If they have doubts over the legitimacy of a transaction or
event, then they will follow procedures to discuss the situation or make an internal suspicious activity report. It is only by following these procedures that staff are protected from the possible penalties contained within the legislation
- not speculate as to whether a crime has been committed. In order for a report to be made, there will be reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, the client intended for a crime to be committed, and there will be proceeds of that crime. An innocent error is not a crime, and so there will be an element of intent
- not be required to be investigators; that is the role of law enforcement
- remember that ‘tipping off’ is an offence under the legislation. Staff will not discuss what they may or may not report with the client or with colleagues (other than the appointed officer or deputy, whose job is to make a report where believed appropriate) and will not make reports the topic of general conversation within the office. Tipping off (whether involving the subject of a report, a colleague, friend or family) may result in criminal conviction and a prison sentence
- Record-keeping requirements
A record of all client due diligence measures carried out will be kept.By keeping comprehensive records the firm is able to show that the business has complied with the Money Laundering Regulations. This is crucial if there is an investigation into a client or any client matter. The records include:
- client identification documents obtained
- risk assessments
- Evidence of source of funds provided by clients
- policies, controls and procedures
- training records
The types of records that may be kept are:
- daily records of transactions
- paying-in books
- client correspondence
- client financial documents including for example bank statements provided to establish source of funds.
The format that records can be kept in are:
- computerised or electronic
These records must be kept for five years beginning from:
- the date a business relationship ends
- the date a transaction is completed