With the Directive coming into effect, Aziz Rahman examines
It seems to have been a long time coming but it has finally
come into effect. And it imposes many obligations on many in business.
The Fourth EU Money Laundering Directive (4MLD) came into
force on June 26, 2015 and had to be on the statute books of member states by
June 26 this year
It has been created to ensure a stronger risk-based approach
to preventing money laundering and the financing of terrorism. And it does this
by placing a number of obligations on banks and other financial institutions –
the organisations the Directive calls “obliged entities’’.
It is the latest in a series of EU efforts to tackle money
laundering that began 26 years ago. Its emphasis on a risk-based approach is
reflected in the levels of customer due diligence it expects to be carried out.
4MLD removes the automatic right to exempt certain customers
or investors from due diligence checks if they are a credit institution in the
EU – or another country with equivalent anti-money laundering measures – or a
There is now an obligation to carry out risk assessment and
monitoring on customers and enhanced requirements for due diligence when it
comes to people or organisations from what are classed as high-risk countries
under the Directive.
The Directive also extends the due diligence requirements
regarding politically exposed persons (PEP’s). It covers domestic PEP’s, not
just foreign ones, and their “family members’’ and “persons known to be close
Obliged entities must have a procedure for identifying PEPs.
If a person no longer appears to meet the criteria for being classed as a
PEP, the obliged entity must, for at least 12 months afterwards, continue
assessing the risk posed by that person and apply appropriate measures. Such
measures should only be stopped when checks have deemed that the person is no
longer a PEP risk.
4MLD also requires corporate and legal entities, trusts and other
similar structures to maintain adequate, accurate and current information on
their beneficial ownership.
The definition of beneficial ownership under 4MLD extends
down to those who have a 25% or more stake in such a body. But, in
organisations deemed to pose a risk of money laundering or tax evasion, this
can drop to 10%. EU member states must ensure that the information on
beneficial ownership is held in a central register that is accessible to the
Each EU state must also carry out a national risk assessment
every two years of its exposure to money laundering and terrorist financing.
Risk assessments must be documented, kept up to date and made available to the
relevant authorities and to each other member state.
But what does all this mean if you are one of those
organisations classed as an obliged entity?
Firstly, you must consider how you will manage those clients
that deal in large amounts of money. This may mean making extra requests for
information on income or earnings and more ongoing checks. The Directive orders
that due diligence be carried out on customers whenever there is a cash
transaction of 10,000 euros or more. The previous limit was 15,000 euros.
The Directive also retains the obligation for firms to keep
their information on a client for five years after the end of the business
relationship – and this can now be extended to 10 years in certain
circumstances. It also extends the money laundering obligations that casinos
must follow to all gambling services.
To put it in the simplest possible terms, if your bank,
financial institution or other type of business is covered by 4MLD you have to
have made sure you are fully compliant with it. This means meeting your
obligations but also developing and maintaining a workplace culture whereby you
have procedures in place to identify and prevent money laundering.
By doing so, if you are investigated for money laundering
you will be able to show that you had acted to try and prevent it.
Checking the background and history of someone you are
looking to do business with is part of due diligence. 4MLD, like many
regulations that preceded it, is all about making checks and imposing
But if you are covered by the Directive, you also have to be
aware of the signs that someone may be looking to launder money.
Companies have to have procedures for staff to report
suspicions and must have a nominated officer to whom these concerns can be voiced.
And once these concerns have been raised, they have to be investigated and,
where necessary, acted upon.
If anyone covered by 4MLD does not know how they should comply
with it, or how they should recognise and act upon signs of possible laundering,
they need to take immediate legal advice.
The authorities, both in the UK and across the EU, are
constantly looking at ways to destroy the routes by which financial systems are
used to launder money.
4MLD is the latest attempt to toughen the financial world’s
resistance to those looking to disguise the proceeds of crime. Those obliged
entities that it covers cannot afford to fall short when it comes to meeting
the responsibilities it places upon them.