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Anti Money Laundering (AML) in banking: Everything you need to know

Money laundering is the process of disguising the origins of money that has been obtained illegally. Anti Money Laundering (AML) regulations are put in place to prevent banks and other financial institutions from being used to launder money. In this article, we will discuss AML in banking and how it affects financial institutions. We will also provide a detailed overview of the AML process and discuss some common AML compliance issues.

Introduction to Anti Money Laundering

Money laundering is the process of taking money that has been illegally obtained and hiding its origins so it will seem like a legitimate source. Anti Money Laundering refers to when banks do their part in monitoring suspicious activities, reporting them promptly with legal requirements intact – this helps fight against criminal activity.

An estimated 800 billion to 2 trillion dollars is laundered every year. That prompted the establishment of Anti Money Laundering laws, making hiding money, corruption, and crime organizing more difficult. It’s a battle fought by regulators, compliance teams, and honest businesses worldwide.

Money launderers hide proceeds from illicit activities everywhere, from real estate, businesses, and casinos, to shell companies.

Anti Money Laundering (AML) compliance is important for banks because it helps to prevent them from being used to launder money. AML compliance requires banks to take measures to identify and report suspicious activity. Failure to comply with AML regulations can result in hefty fines, suspension of operations, or even jail time.

The process of money laundering

There are three stages of money laundering:

1. Placement – when dirty money enters a legitimate  financial system

2. Layering – using multiple complex transactions, to hide the source of the money

3. Integration – once the clean money returns to the criminal via legitimate sources

Whilst all the steps are required when the criminal is trying to clean their money, placement is the one that gives a great opportunity to stop the process. Since that stage has the closest connection to the crime, there’s a smaller chance that the true source of the funds has been diluted.

What are AML requirements for banks?

While each jurisdiction and industry will have different requirements, the Anti Money Laundering process typically includes the following steps:

Customer Identification and Due Diligence – Financial institutions must identify their customers and gather information about them. This process is known as customer due diligence.

Transaction Monitoring – Financial institutions must monitor their customers’ transactions for signs of suspicious activity.

Reporting Suspicious Activity – If a financial institution suspects its customer is laundering money, it must file a suspicious activity report with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

What are some common AML compliance issues?

AML compliance is often complex and ever-changing. Approaching AML compliance as a core requirement helps to deliver a program that protects the organization’s community and its reputation. Ensuring that your organization helps to prevent the facilitation of crime and corruption is fundamental to modern financial institutions. 

Common AML compliance issues include:

– Failure to complete customer due diligence

– Failure to identify and report suspicious activity

– Lack of policies and procedures

– Inadequate training of the staff

-Weaknesses in transaction monitoring

Banks and other financial institutions must take AML compliance seriously. If you have any questions about AML compliance, we encourage you to speak with a qualified attorney.

Anti Money Laundering regulations

With the rise of money laundering, lawmakers are closing loopholes and demanding higher standards. The process has become so prevalent that papers like The Panama Papers drive awareness of its pervasiveness even more than before.

The European Union makes it easier to hold employees and officials accountable for financial crimes. The 6AMLD has empowered citizens by giving them more authority when reporting possible wrongdoing, while also increasing penalties against those who break the law—including criminal liability! This new legislation will create a Pan-EU AML agency that strengthens requirements, closes loopholes to strengthen coordination between regulatory agencies throughout Europe as well provide better communication amongst each country’s corresponding authorities.

In the US, regulations have evolved significantly from the first Bank Secrecy Act to the latest Corporate Transparency Act. An unveiling focus is on beneficial ownership, as complex layers of global shell companies and other legal structures make it difficult to determine who owns a business.

Beneficial owners

Beneficial owners are the individuals who directly or indirectly own/ control 25% or more of a corporation or an entity other than a corporation. In the case of a trust, they are the trustees, the known beneficiaries, and the settlers of the trust.

Legal Entity Identifier and AML

A Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) is a 20-character, alpha-numerical code based on ISO 17442 that links to reference information identifying legal entities participating in financial transactions. It is a universal identifier that answers the entity’s ownership structure, ‘who is who’ and ‘who owns whom.’

The Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation (GLEIF) also proposed the idea of ISO 5009, intending to bring clarity and structure to the information held in the two LEI-based digital tools.

The standard, ISO 5009, is used to verify the identity and position of individuals representing an organization (like a business or company) and is intended for inclusion in current and future digital assets. This will be achieved through the global uniformity of two digital assets under the Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) digital ID umbrella: verified LEI (vLEI) and digital certificates embedded with LEIs.

ISO says the 5009 standards can be used as an effective and universal way to authenticate people who act on behalf of organizations. This includes signing documents requiring verification with absolute certainties, such as sensitive business deals, company agreements, etc.