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UK ex-minister claims he was pressured to drop AML amendments

An ex-MP claims he was forced to drop AML measures; Spanish police hit a crypto laundering gang; and Canada took aim at the 'freedom convoy' funding streams.

Napier AI
February 18, 2022

Valentine's Day week was filled with accusations and action, as an ex-MP claimed Theresa May’s government forced him to drop anti-money laundering measures; Spanish police broke up a money laundering gang which specialised in cryptocurrency; and Canada took aim at the financial flows via crowdfunding to the 'freedom convoy' protesters.

Find out more on these stories below.

Ex-minister alleges that former PM’s officials harried him into dropping proposed AML measures

Ex-Conservative Party minister, Lord Faulks, made the allegations in a letter published online. The letter’s contents centred on proposed anti-money laundering (AML) measures for the UK which he tabled during 2017 and 2018.

He now claims that he was persuaded by officials from several departments during Theresa May’s term as Prime Minister to drop the amendments, with assurances that government had the AML issues under control.

In the letter, Lord Faulks claimed that:

  • In 2017, he was critical of the inadequate regulations pertaining to Unexplained Wealth Orders in the Criminal Finances Act and proposed introducing a beneficial ownership register of London properties owned by foreign entities. He alleges that he was convinced by two prominent ministers that the issue was being pursued, and so dropped the matter
  • In 2018, he brought up the beneficial ownership register again when the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill came before the House of Lords. He was subsequently summoned to 10 Downing Street to meet with officials from four government departments, who again persuaded him to drop the amendments on the assurance that the register would be up and running by early 2021
  • In 2019, he was appointed as chair of a joint committee to assess the draft Bill, which was deemed ‘excellent’, and stressed that government should pass it urgently, a position he believed the then government agreed with

He claimed that nothing has yet happened, and that “we are not responding to the threat of economic crime. We are giving away visas and the rest of the world must think we simply do not care.”

Read more on this story at The Guardian

Spanish police dismantle organised crime group specialising in money laundering via cryptocurrency

The Central Operative Unit of Spain’s Civil Guard announced the arrests of several suspects on Tuesday, February 15. The Madrid-based organised crime group (OCG) is thought to have focused on drug trafficking but branched into, then specialised in, using cryptocurrency for money laundering. The gang also allegedly provided their services to other criminal enterprises, both locally and abroad.

Codenamed MUANA, the tactical phase of the operation saw guards search nine properties in Madrid and Valladolid, and achieved the following:

  • 9 suspected gang members were arrested
  • 9 properties were confiscated
  • 30 bank accounts were frozen
  • €300k (£249.5k) was seized
  • €1m (£831.7k) worth of goods and cold wallets - USB-like hardware devices which store cryptoassets offline - were retrieved

Guard investigators also detected shell companies possibly linked to the group in Lithuania, Germany, Sweden, and Belgium, in addition to Spain. The guard is now co-operating with the US Drug Enforcement Agency to locate and recover the stolen funds.

Read more on this story at CFX Magazine

Canada invokes Emergencies Act to counter crowdfunded ‘Freedom Convoy’ with tighter AML rules

The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time ever on Monday, 14 February.

The unprecedented move intends to break up the ‘freedom convoy’ blockades afflicting Canada by ending the financial support flowing to the protestors via crowdfunding platforms. The new rules will have hard-hitting consequences not only for protesters, but also for the entire Canadian financial industry, which will now have to comply with its demands to check if they conduct business with anyone who’s attending an illegal protest.

Crowdfunding platforms and some payment service providers are not covered by the current Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. The broader new powers mean investigators can track illicit flows into crowdfunding donation drives, exert tighter AML controls over financial institutions, and possibly freeze suspects’ bank accounts.

The ‘freedom convoys’ are groups of protesters calling for an end to vaccine mandates and Covid-19 restrictions by blocking border crossings and occupying parts of Ottawa, both with their persons and with trucks. The series of protests was started by truckers demanding an end to vaccine mandates and passports when a cross-border vaccine exemption period concluded on January 15, 2022.

Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland explained the announcement by stating that “what we are facing today is a threat to our democratic institutions, to our economy, and to peace, order, and good government in Canada. This is unacceptable. It cannot stand and it will not stand.”

Read more on this story at Fortune.com

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Photo by Paul Buffington on Unsplash