Money Laundering and POCA matters are central to the work carried out by our criminal and fraud team. Our forensic accountants routinely assist clients accused of money laundering and POCA offences to defend the charges brought against them, and work with prosecuting authorities to establish the true extent of a defendant’s criminality. We combine our forensic accountancy skills with decades of experience and IT capabilities, to provide our clients with the robust, cogent evidence that usually proves critical in determining the outcome of a case. We pride ourselves on delivering the very best levels of service in the most cost-effective manner.
What Is Money Laundering And POCA?
The Proceeds of Crime Act, or POCA as it is more commonly known, was introduced in March 2003 with the aim of giving law enforcement officials greater powers to recover the proceeds of organised crime, including money laundering. POCA was an integral element of a wider drive to crack down on criminal activity in the UK and bring down the networks of organised criminals that operated here. As its name suggests, POCA targets the proceeds of crime, making it more difficult for those engaged in illegal activity to keep hold of their ill-gotten gains.
Money laundering is explicitly addressed in Part 7 of POCA, which defines the practice as “the process by which the proceeds of crime are converted into assets which appear to have a legitimate origin, so that they can be retained permanently or recycled into further criminal enterprises”. In a nutshell, those involved in money laundering pass funds gained through illegitimate means through legitimate businesses, thereby ‘cleaning’ it and disguising its true source.
Examples of money laundering techniques commonly employed by criminals include the following:
• Passing illegitimate funds through cash-intensive businesses such as gardening services, cleaning services, car washes and bars.
Criminals exploit cash intensive business models like the ones listed above by mixing illegitimate funds with those taken legitimately through the businesses, and inflating their daily takings to reflect the mix of lawful and unlawful income. This makes it extremely difficult to detect the money laundering, and for anyone to effectively separate the proceeds of crime from the business’s income.
• Buying property with the proceeds of crime.
Organised criminal groups often invest in property as a way to convert unlawfully obtained money into a legal, identifiable asset. The property is then subsequently sold in return for legitimately sourced cash.
• Gambling with the proceeds of crime
Casinos and online gambling websites provide an ideal forum for money laundering. Criminals buy chips, play a few games with them, and cash them in for ‘clean’ money.
Smurfing involves a criminal dividing their illegitimately sourced money into smaller amounts and depositing them between several financial institutions, to avoid triggering a ‘Suspicious Activity Report’, or SAR, by banking large sums in one go. An SAR is a formal report used to alert the authorities to any potential money laundering. The funds are often subsequently transferred to different accounts and mixed with ’clean’ money to conceal their true source and significantly complicate matters for anyone seeking to trace their origin.
Our Work In Money Laundering And POCA
Our crime and fraud team are industry leaders in money laundering and POCA matters. When a defendant is charged with money laundering and other POCA offences, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) analyses the defendant’s bank statements and other financial information to establish the amount of money that constitutes the ‘benefit’ gleaned by the defendant from their criminal activities. This sum, unsurprisingly, is known as the ‘benefit’ figure.
Sometimes, the benefit figure forwarded by the CPS is inaccurate and does not reflect the true proceeds of crime. The CPS may have erred in their calculations or methodology, double counting sums held in separate bank accounts, missing crucial transactions or simply disregarding the defendant’s explanations. When instructed on behalf of a defendant, we carry out a further, detailed analysis of the financial information reviewed by the CPS, requesting sight of any additional documentation we consider relevant, and liaising with the defendant to draw our own conclusions.
All of our accountants are highly qualified professionals with the precise skill set required to forensically analyse vast sums of financial data swiftly and accurately. Our decades of experience mean we are familiar with all types of financial data and understand how to read, analyse and interpret them. When searching for the source of a specific income, we also look beyond the numbers, to the reality of a defendant’s actions and surrounding circumstances. We use cutting-edge forensic accounting technology, often created by our own accountants, to assist us, ensuring our work is comprehensive, accurate and cost-efficient.
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