A south Wales firm that failed to have a money laundering risk assessment in place for more than four years has been fined by the SRA.
The regulator issued a fine of £4,000 against Chepstow-based Bevan-Evans & Capehorn Solicitors LLP after deeming the firm’s conduct to be serious.
Investigators found the practice failed to have a documented and compliant firm-wide risk assessment in place from June 2017 to October 2021. The firm was said to have ‘failed to have sufficient regard’ for the SRA’s warning notice in 2019 about risk assessments and in doing so breached the principle that solicitors uphold public trust and confidence in the profession and in legal services.
For five years until July 2022, the SRA said the firm failed to have in place up-to-date anti-money laundering policies, controls and procedures to mitigate and manage the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing. It failed to nominate a money laundering compliance officer during this period, as required by money laundering regulations.
The SRA said the firm was responsible for its own conduct which was ‘serious and had the potential to cause harm to the public interest and to public confidence in the legal profession’. The firm must also pay £1,350 costs.
The regulator has been persistent in penalising firms who fail to act in accordance with the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017.
New powers introduced last year increased the maximum fine that could be issued from £2,000 to £25,000 and the SRA has made use of that on a number of occasions. The record fine for AML breaches was for £20,000 against an Oxfordshire firm in January.
Source: The Law Society Gazette, 11th July 2023