A new anti-money laundering watchdog—the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS)—has been launched in the UK.
OPBAS, which sits within the Financial Conduct Authority, is being funded by a fee on professional body supervisors and is charged with monitoring the activities of the 22 professional body anti-money laundering (AML) supervisors in the UK.
It has the power to impose financial penalties on supervisors if money laundering regulations are breached, and publicly censure or recommend to the Treasury removal of professional bodies that do not comply with Money Laundering Regulations.
It will also work with a reformed Money Laundering Advisory Committee (MLAC) to simplify the anti-money laundering rules that apply to different industries and approve one set of anti-money laundering guidance for each sector.
Caroline Day, criminal litigation partner at Kingsley Napley, commented: “The UK has one of the highest number of professional bodies responsible for supervising AML, and the government has charged OPBAS with driving up standards and ensuring quality and consistency across the board.
“This new watchdog is designed to be a ‘supervisor’ of supervisors. Its brief is to simplify the AML rules that apply to different sectors, close any gaps and prevent any loopholes from appearing.”
Although long-planned, OPBAS comes into operation during a wave of recent government announcements about economic crime, suggesting a real momentum in the government’s commitment to stepping up the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, said Day.
“The intention is for OPBAS to reinforce AML in the UK, but whether this will also add unnecessary layers of bureaucratic supervision remains to be seen.”