What is money laundering?
Money laundering in simple terms is where money or assets which are the proceeds of a criminal offence (e.g. fraud, drug trafficking etc) is ‘cleaned’ to disguise where the money originally came from. This means to hide the fact the money or assets came from committing a criminal offence. In the past cash has been used to buy property and when that property has been sold then the original criminality has been disguised by what appears to be a genuine property transaction.
The Proceeds of Crime Act changed things and focussed on the need to target those facilitating crime. This Act introduced new criminal offences specifically aimed at those assisting offenders disguise the origins of their cash. It became an offence to conceal, disguise, convert, transfer and remove criminal property from England & Wales or to be concerned in any arrangement that facilitates money laundering. It is also an offence to acquire, use or possess criminal property. These offences can be found under S327, S328 and S329 of the Act.
In addition to this it was felt important to ensure that vulnerable businesses were not used as vehicles to launder money. This lead to the introduction of the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 which came into force in December 2007. These regulations require certain businesses to have systems in place to prevent money laundering and also to report any suspicious activities. If they do not adhere to these rules they could face civil penalties and/or criminal prosecutions.
The offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) concern money laundering from offences committed by the criminal himself or money laundering where it is the proceeds of the offences of another criminal. Investigations into matters of this type are often long and complex. There can be interviews under caution, compulsory documentation and information requests, search warrants executed and many other powers invoked.