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that the UK’s anti-money laundering laws are no longer governed by the European
Union (EU), but any estate agents that think that means a relaxation in
requirements has got another think coming.
Not only has
the UK transposed the latest European money laundering Directive - MLD6 - into
UK law, but thanks to the UK’s history of going ‘above and beyond’ when it
comes to fighting financial crime, AML laws are only likely to get stricter, as
Martin Cheek, MD at anti-money laundering experts SmartSearch explains:
“The UK has
a history of being ahead of the game when it comes to AML, not behind, and
arguably has the most stringent AML laws in the world.
“While some European
countries are slow to implement directives - for example, when 3MLD came into
effect in 2004, France was fined by the EU for not implementing it into
domestic law - the UK’s record is quite the opposite.”
In 2017, the
UK had already established a public register of beneficial owners, a full four
years before 5MLD came into force in 2020. The new requirements were created in
direct response to several high-profile events - one of which was the
publication of the Panama Papers in 2016 which exposed secret financial
dealings of more than 200,000 offshore entities. But the UK was already putting
measures in place before legally obliged to do so.
some countries - including the US - still do not have publicly available
beneficial owner lists,” continues Cheek. “The latest US regulations - AMLA
2020 - do stipulate that beneficial owners must be identified and recorded, but
the database is non-public making it difficult
for US financial institutions to run the appropriate checks on corporate
“In comparison, the equivalent list in the UK - Companies House - is publicly
available and includes information on corporate structure, beneficial owners,
accounts etc about every registered company in the UK, making it much easier
for estate agents and other regulated firms to run proper checks on their business
that, post-Brexit, when no longer governed by the EU, it is likely that the UK
will take more of a lead from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) - the
global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog - when it comes to creating
anti-money laundering laws.
“I would expect
the UK to take a lead directly from FATF going forward, however, given that the
EU is likely to be the UK’s biggest trading partner - and that MLD6 has already
been transposed into UK law despite the fact we were no longer a member state
when it came into force - it is more
than likely that the UK will implement all EU money laundering directives as
they come through too,” he said.
post-Brexit, not only are we unlikely to see a relaxation in AML rules, we
might actually see stricter regulations, as the UK very much leads the way,
both in AML regulation, but also, in creating regtech solutions to meet those regulations.”
Cheek says the easiest way for estate
agents to ensure they meet their post-Brexit AML obligations is to use electronic verification.
“Electronic verification is quicker, cheaper, more secure and more
reliable than manual ID checks, and has proved to be the only real solution
during the pandemic because all checks can be done without having to deal with
paperwork or physical IDs - you don’t
even have to meet clients face to face,” he said. “and the good news is,
there are a huge number of EV options for UK regulated firms.”
SmartSearch’s innovative online AML platform is constantly being
updated to ensure it meets all UK AML laws giving estate agents peace of mind
that they are fully compliant for the life of their contract.
The easy-to-use platform, which can be accessed via desktop or via
a mobile device - enables estate agents to run comprehensive AML checks - with sanctions
and PEP screening and adverse media checks - in a matter of seconds, with all
search data automatically hosted on the system and monitored regularly for any
Cheek concludes: “Estate agents using SmartSearch will be able
to conduct full AML checks remotely, via their phone or tablet, which means they
can onboard clients, with all the relevant post-Brexit AML checks, anytime,
anywhere, without even needing to meet them in person. And with SmartSearch’s
TripleCheck - which includes the latest facial recognition and selfie likeness
technology - you can always be sure your clients are who they say they are.”