Have you ever wondered why Solicitors ask you for identification such as passports and utility bills?

As a result of the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017, in addition to the job Solicitors are trained to do, we now have additional obligations almost akin to being private detectives.

Amongst other duties, we have to conduct a money laundering and terrorist financing risk assessment and must comply with new client due diligence and enhanced due diligence requirements. We have to consider, for example, whether our clients are based in jurisdictions where there is a higher risk of money laundering or terrorist financing, whether we have clients who operate in sectors that, by their nature, pose a higher risk of money laundering and, probably the most important factor, whether and how often we act for clients without meeting them.

At this firm, we electronically verify the data and documents provided by our clients through an independent third party service. We try and ensure that we meet clients face to face, which is also a good way of ensuring the best customer care at a local level.

In order to ensure that we comply with the aforementioned regulations and requirements, we have procedures in place across our firm to aid us in identifying and also dealing with the perceived risks. If we do not identify such risks, the consequences could be severe. If we do not comply with the Money Laundering Regulations, not only do we face the possibility of financial penalties, but we could be committing criminal offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, under which the sentence could be up to 14 years custody. The Court will pay little or no attention to the fact that solicitors made no monetary gain or were unwittingly dragged into the scheme. If we fail to comply with our obligations, we do so at our peril.

Please bear with your solicitors if we ask you for up to date documentation such as passports and utility bills. We are not being nosey, simply cautious and trying to ensure that we do our due diligence and comply with the rules and regulations.

This article was written by Conleth Fernandes who is a Solicitor based in our Torquay office. If you would like to discuss any of the information mentioned in the article then you can contact Conleth by email at conlethfernandes@wbw.co.uk, or by telephone on 01803 407633.

For all your legal needs, contact WBW Solicitors today.