November 2014

Money laundering prevention guide a global first for lawyers


A new guide aiming to provide lawyers across the world with practical guidance in detecting and preventing money laundering has been produced by the International Bar Association (IBA) in conjunction with the American Bar Association (ABA) and the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE).

Stephen Revell, a partner at Freshfields law firm in Singapore, who led the IBA’s contribution and was the overall editor of the Guide, said, ‘Anti-money laundering regulation is becoming more complex as various global AML protocols affecting lawyers come into effect. In turn, the obligations on lawyers are becoming more onerous and challenging some of the basic tenets of the profession with regard to a lawyer’s duty of confidentiality toward the client.’ He added, ‘All lawyers have ethical obligations in this area that need to be better understood and followed, making this new Guide a vital point of reference for any lawyer who is exposed to anti-money laundering obligations.’

A Lawyer’s Guide to Detecting and Preventing Money Laundering addresses the responsibilities of lawyers in many jurisdictions in this area and, as such, is the first of its kind. It focuses on the legal obligations lawyers have in various situations in terms of their own compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) laws and illustrates the latest detection techniques being employed by lawyers to avoid involvement in money laundering. In addition, the Guide provides thought-provoking commentary on the underlying ethical obligations that lawyers have – for example, being alert to finding themselves involved in criminal activity and taking care to avoid facilitating the work of criminals.

Demand for the guide was driven by feedback from lawyers at IBA, ABA and CCBE conferences in recent years, which called for practical guidance based on case studies of the ‘unwitting’ participation of lawyers in money laundering schemes. The resulting Guide is intended as a resource for lawyers and law firms to highlight the ethical and professional concerns relating to AML and to help lawyers and law firms comply with their legal obligations in countries where they apply. It comprises:

  • a summary of certain international and national sources of AML obligations;

  • discussion of the vulnerabilities of the legal profession to misuse by criminals in the context of money laundering;

  • discussion of the risk-based approach to detecting red flags, red flag indicators of money laundering activities and how to respond to them; and

  • case studies to illustrate how red flags may arise in the context of providing legal advice.

Mr Revell further commented, ‘Money laundering has been a recurring theme for lawyers throughout the last decade. Legislators and regulators are more focused on lawyers as “gatekeepers” to the financial system, and lawyers need to keep pace with that change. This is the first hands-on AML guide by lawyers, for lawyers and we think it directly meets that challenge.’

The Guide can be downloaded free of charge from the IBA Anti-Money Laundering Forum
website. Click here to download the Guide.