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Swiss govt to fight financial crime with corporate ownership registry

The Swiss plan to introduce a corporate ownership registry; UK tax authorities get tough on real estate; and a UK businessman is arrested for helping an oligarch dodge sanctions.

Eimer Cotter
October 14, 2022

The week kept financial regulators worldwide busy; as the Swiss government moved to establish a true corporate ownership registry which will help stem the illicit financial flows of money laundering and other serious economic crime; UK tax authorities got tough on real estate, naming and fining agents not complying with AML regulations; and UK officials arrested a British businessman with film-star links for his alleged role in helping a Russian oligarch dodge US sanctions.

Find out more on these stories below.

Swiss government’s planned corporate ownership registry set to take aim at money laundering

Switzerland’s government, known as the Federal Council, announced on 12 October 2022 that the country’s Federal Department of Finance (FDF) will propose a bill to ease the process of identifying corporate entities’ true beneficial owners by means of a centralised register. The bill is intended to reinforce the current anti-money laundering (AML) framework and safeguard Switzerland’s reputation as a financial and economic hub.

The motion builds on observations in the Federal Council’s December 2021 report to the Council of States Economic Affairs and Taxation Committee (EATC-S). Among other recommendations, it noted that the process of accurately identifying the true owners of legal entities could be improved with more transparency. The planned registry will be made available to the relevant Swiss authorities tasked with preventing or acting against financial crime, but will not be accessible to the general public.

The Federal Council’s move is set to model Switzerland’s AML regime more closely on the global trend of countries implementing register-based solutions to identifying legal entities in line with the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) 2020 Guidance on Transparency and Beneficial Ownership. The FDF has been instructed to draft the bill by the second quarter of 2023.

Read more on this story at Reuters.

HMRC names and shames almost 70 estate agents with noncompliance fines of over £500k

Britain’s His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs service (HMRC) announced in an 11 October 2022 statement that 68 estate agents have been added to the most recent iteration of the UK government’s list of businesses not complying with anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, which was updated on 4 October 2022. The 68 were cumulatively fined £519,645.

HMRC’s punitive measures against real estate industry role-players built on its first-ever prosecution of an unregistered estate agent under AML regulations. The accused, London-based Felix Uwuigbe, was sentenced to 120 hours of community service and banned from operating as a real estate agent for two years.

Of the 68, the heftiest fine levied at an agency was £53,400.

HMRC’s Deputy Director of Economic Crime, Nick Sharp, was emphatic in his comment about the updated list and noted that “money laundering is not a victimless crime. Our regulations are there to protect businesses from those criminals who would prey on their services to wash their dirty money.”

Read more on this story at Property Industry Eye.

British businessman related to famous actress arrested for allegedly helping Russian oligarch evade US sanctions

The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) announced the arrest of Graham Bonham-Carter on 11 October 2022, on suspicion of assisting Russian billionaire oligarch Oleg Deripaska to avoid US-imposed sanctions.

Bonham-Carter, a second cousin of the British film actress Helena Bonham-Carter, allegedly helped Deripaska by relocating his artwork from America and making payments for the maintenance of his US properties.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) also announced charges against Bonham-Carter on 11 October 2022, and intends to seek his extradition to the USA, where he faces accusations of several financial crimes in relation to illicit dealings with Deripaska. If tried and convicted on even one of the several charges, Bonham-Carter could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

The NCA’s Director General of Operations, Steve Rodhouse, admonished kleptocrats and their enablers when he said of the arrest that “oligarchs seeking to evade sanctions rely on skilled professionals to help them hide their true ownership of assets and sustain their lifestyles,” and that “working with partners around the world, the NCA is determined to identify and disrupt entities in the UK involved in hiding or moving illicit wealth.”

Read more on this story at Sky News.

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Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

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