Thursday, 2 February 2012

Money Laundering checks and the criminal element

As a business defined as an “Accountancy Service Provider (ASP)” we are expected to check the IDs of new clients with regard to the Anti-Money Laundering Regulations (MLR), which we do diligently. We now have means of doing on-line checks, but I worry that there is such a racket in forged papers that even these on-line facilities might not be sufficiently rigorous, as an established ID of any longevity might pass even more sophisticated tests. 

Recently I received the following as a spam comment on one of my WordPress blogs:

 “Our team is a unique producer of quality fake documents. We offer only original high-quality fake passports, driver’s licenses, ID cards, stamps and other products for a number of countries like: USA, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Italia, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom. This list is not full...”

There is a lot more but I have not quoted further because although I doubt they will sue me for breach of copyright, you already have the picture.

Nearly four years ago I met someone who said he was a national of a country bordering the Black Sea. He produced a passport which looked OK to me, and a utility bill in the same name with the address of the flat he was staying in and said that he rented. This guy wanted to register as self-employed, so I completed a 64-8 with the National Insurance number he provided. HMRC then registered a lady I had never heard of as a client of mine, because apparently this National Insurance number was hers.

I tried to check with my new client in case the number he provided was wrong, but I never heard from him again. I assume he had “done a runner”. I was quite relieved actually.

Of course as a good ASP I reported this incident to the relevant authorities and never heard a thing from them, and I told HMRC who apparently couldn’t have cared less.

I am all for using the MLR ID procedures with new clients because it is some sort of deterrent for dodgy characters, but as regards our being unpaid police, how are we to know just through document-checking just who some people are? I certainly did not spot what was probably a false passport. In reality I wouldn't know one if it slapped me round the face.

Experience might lead us to do further checks if we have doubts, but our role as unpaid police or UK Border Agency staff cannot be particularly effective, especially if our reports continue to be treated with such indifference.