Accounting StandardsRegulators

OPBAS criticises professional bodies money laundering prevention

The Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) has said professional bodies are not doing enough to stop the flow of dirty money.

The body was set up by the government last year to “supervise the supervisors” – the 22 professional bodies who monitor the accountancy and legal professions. The role of OPBAS, is to ensure the 22 professional bodies have “consistently high standards of supervision” and that, in turn, its members are preventing criminals laundering money.

However announcing the results of its first report OPBAS found that the accountancy sector and many smaller professional bodies focus more on representing their members rather than robustly supervising standards.

It found that some “did not fully understand their role as an anti-money laundering supervisor” and 23% had no form of supervision and 18% had not even identified who they needed to supervise.

Additionally the report highlights over 90% “hadn’t fully developed a risk based approach and had not collected all the data they needed to form a view about their riskiest members and their services”.

Alison Barker, director of specialist supervision at OPBAS, said: “There has not been enough enforcement action. Last year, only 50% of professional bodies issued fines for AML failings. It was even less the year before (27%). This is hard to believe, given the high risk activities of lawyers and accountants. We were told, particularly in the accountancy sector, that professional bodies believed their members would leave if they took robust enforcement action.

“There’s a problem with this belief. Without enforcement how can a professional body show it ‘means business’? How can a professional body show its members that meeting standards is a serious requirement? How can clients and consumers be confident in the credibility and integrity of their professional advisers?”

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