Money laundering is serious business. It is also dealt with extremely seriously by the courts. If you or someone you know if involved in money laundering, is under investigation for - or charged with - money laundering offences, contact the expert fraud and criminal defence solicitors at Qamar Solicitors for urgent advice.
Sometimes, a close loved one or the business partner of an individual suspected of money laundering can be caught up in an investigation, for instance, it the authorities argue they should have known the funds were from a criminal source. We take a sympathetic but robust approach to clients who have been caught up in someone else’s suspected money laundering activity.
What is money laundering?
Money laundering takes place when money or assets that are the proceeds of criminal activity is ‘cleaned’ with the specific intention of hiding its origin. Criminal activity that often leads to money laundering includes fraud and drug trafficking. Money laundering can involve the proceeds of an individual’s criminal conduct; or by handling the criminal proceeds of someone else’s criminal conduct – even several stages removed from the original criminal conduct.
It can involve a small amount of money; or it can be a high value and highly complex, involving a number of companies, cross borders assets and offshore bank accounts.
The Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) introduced three main money laundering offences (as well as a disclosure regime making it an offence not to disclose knowledge or suspicion of money laundering). These are serious offences carrying a maximum 14 year prison sentence.
It’s important to note that these offences assume a criminal offence has already taken place generating the criminal property being laundered. However, no conviction is necessary before a prosecution for money laundering.
‘Concealing’ (s327 POCA)
A person commits an offence if he or she conceals, disguises, converts, or transfers criminal property (or removes criminal property from England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland). This extends to concealing or disguising its nature, source, location, disposition, movement or ownership of any rights with respect to it.
A person commits an offence if he or she enters into, or becomes concerned in an arrangement which he or she knows or suspects facilitates the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property by or on behalf of another person. An agreement to make an arrangement will not always amount to an arrangement. An arrangement does not include handling criminal property, settlements, negotiations, out of court settlements, or alternative dispute resolution and tribunal representations. However, ‘sham’ litigation is caught by the s328 offence.
Money laundering offences under s327 and s328 of POCA are criminal lifestyle offences (see Confiscation Orders).
‘Acquisition, use or possession’ (s329)
An offence is committed if an individual acquires, uses or has possession of criminal property which he or she knows or suspects represents the proceeds of crime.
Criminal property, for the purposes of money laundering offences, is property representing either direct or indirect benefit from criminal conduct - so long as the launderer 'knows or suspects' that the property represents such a benefit. Property includes intangible including, for instance, copyright, trademarks, or patents.
Money laundering investigations can be complex and take a substantial amount of time, involving interviews under caution, compulsory documentation and information requests, search warrants executed, vast amount of evidence, and so on. Individuals being investigated for money laundering offences may be served with restraint orders and, if convicted of an offence, could face confiscation proceedings to pay back the value of the criminal ‘benefit’.
For these reasons, it is imperative to take specialist legal advice as early as possible in the investigation. We work with other professionals, including forensic accountants and auditors, to examine the evidence against our clients so that we can best assist them. We are adept at identifying inconsistencies in the prosecuting authorities’ case, and we will defend our clients aggressively where necessary.
The main defence to these money laundering offences is where the individual makes an ‘authorised disclosure’ to the relevant authorities (or intended doing so but had reasonable excuse for not doing so). Some professions and businesses are required under the Act to disclose to the police any client or customer they believe is laundering criminal cash through their business.
How can we help?
We have years of experience in representing clients facing money laundering charges and other proceedings under POCA and it is vital to consult the best solicitors you can. Contact the criminal defence lawyers at Qamar Solicitors immediately for urgent specialist legal advice.