New figures by the National Criminal Investigations Service (NCIS) highlight the long-held belief that UK lawyers pay only lip-service to requirements to report those money laundering suspects.
Out of a total 17,000 individual reports to NCIS last year by individuals concerned about clients and others involved in laundering the proceeds of crime, only 183 originated from lawyers. This figure does not shock UK lawyers advising on tackling money laundering, as they regard lawyers as being reluctant to report cases, despite legislation that makes lawyers who do not report clients liable to prison sentences of up to 14 years. Speaking at this year's IBA conference, Keith Oliver of white collar crime specialist Peters & Peters said: "There have been so many inroads into privilege in the UK that it has become a very elastic concept. "Lawyers are frequently being asked to give up their files." He advises lawyers that if in doubt, they must report.