Irish lawyers get tough on money laundering

Ireland's law against money laundering is to be extended to solicitors, who will now be legally obliged to report suspicious financial transactions to the Garda.

The three-year-old legislation, which was introduced as part of a crackdown on criminal gangs in the aftermath of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin, already imposes a reporting requirement on financial institutions.

Now justice minister John O'Donoghue is to extend the requirement to solicitors, accountants and auctioneers, following criticisms in the Irish parliament and outside it that crime bosses have been hiring the services of professionals to launder money.

At a recent conference in Dublin, the head of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, chief superintendent Frank Glacken, said his members found it “very frustrating that some professionals with knowledge of money laundering are under no obligation to provide information”.

At the very least, he added, they should be required to take reasonable measures to establish the identity of those for whom they were providing a service.

Under the extension of the legislation, to be implemented later this year, people making transactions of £10,000 or more through a solicitor may be required to provide copies of passports or other identification, as well as having to reveal the source of the money.

Law Society of Ireland director general Ken Murphy said the society had already conducted a number of meetings on the issue with department officials and knew of plans to extend the legislation.

“Members are willing to comply with any new obligations under the legislation, although it certainly is going to create a certain amount of additional bureaucracy for solicitors,” he said.