Laundering guide focuses on lawyers

The guide, by a money laundering steering group representing the City's financial sector, will put the onus on lawyers to check the identity of their account-holding clients.

Sue Thornhill, deputy director of the British Bankers Association and secretary to the steering group, says the move follows concerns among institutions about the degree of confidentiality existing between solicitors and their clients.

Thornhill, speaking at the launch of a money laundering report by the Police Foundation and the University of Wales College of Cardiff, said that solicitors' client accounts were known to be used for money laundering purposes.

She said a problem was that the Money Laundering Regulations 1993, “only catch solicitors on Financial Services Act-related business and not on their general legal practice work”. Minutes from a recent steering group meeting say the onus to comply with the regulations “must be placed firmly at the door of the Law Society and its members. Account-opening arrangements for solicitors should include an undertaking that they would verify identity and maintain records…it should only be necessary for a bank or building society to verify its own customer, ie the firm itself.”

Talks with the Law Society on the issues take place later this month.