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This week, the Government announced a package of measures to address the abuse of Scottish Limited Partnerships (SLPs).
For a long time now, SLPs have been used to launder huge amounts of money through the UK financial system thanks to their flexible structure and the fact that they have never been subject to owner checks or money laundering checks.
Unlike most investment vehicles, SLPs have their own legal 'personalities' which means they can hold assets, borrow money from banks and enter into contracts in their own right. Usually, this has to be done by a named person. So while this flexibility makes SLPs the perfect investment vehicle for thousands of legitimate British businesses across the UK, it also leaves them open to abuse.
In fact, it is estimated that as many as half of all SLPs are used to launder dirty cash; in these cases, the real owners of the SLP are not listed in company filings, so their activity is impossible to track.
The other way SLPs are abused is through the fact that while they are registered in the UK, they do not have to open a UK bank account. Therefore, all the financial transactions of the SLP can be run through overseas bank accounts, and the account holders are then subject to few, if any, money laundering checks.
So all of this means that basically, SLPs can provide control behind anonymous ownership; so a money launderer can hide criminal activity behind what looks like a respectable UK business.
In previous reports, the National Crime Agency has said that it suspects a “disproportionately high volume” of suspected criminal activity involves SLPs, while Transparency International’s report ‘Offshore in the UK’ found half of all SLPs are registered at just 10 addresses.
So, it was obvious that something needed to be done, but closing down SLPs would jeopardise all the legitimate UK businesses using SLPs in the way they had been intended to be used.
That is why insisting SLPs are subject to money laundering checks – rather than closing down their structure altogether – is the best way forward, and we are pleased that, following today’s announcement, all SLPs must register with an official anti-money laundering supervised agent and demonstrate an ongoing link to the UK, not just the initial set-up.
They must also submit a confirmation statement at least every 12 months to Companies House to ensure their information is accurate and up to date and the Government has also announced that Companies House will have powers to strike off dissolved SLPs and LPs that are not carrying on business, which should
When the proposals were announced back in June, we were in full support, so are pleased to see the Government is going ahead and tackling the problem with these new measures.
However, money launders will always find another way, and while insisting money laundering checks are done is one step, we would urge the Government to take it one step further and ensure that the money laundering checks themselves are as efficient and as accurate as they possibly can be.
Electronic identification is the most reliable, secure and efficient source of information for identity solutions. The 5th Money Laundering Directive calls for electronic checks to be done where possible, so it makes sense to legislate that all anti-money-laundering checks are electronic, removing the risk of errors as a result of manual checks.