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Westgate Solicitors Limited fined £9,750 for persistent breaches of AML regulations
7 February 2024
In a significant decision, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) imposed a financial penalty of £9,750 on Westgate Solicitors Limited, located at 74 Cambridge Heath Rd, London E1 5QJ

The firm faced sanctions for its failure to establish and maintain necessary documentation to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing activities, as required by the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 (MLRs 2007) and the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 (MLRs 2017).

The SRA’s scrutiny, initiated in May 2023, revealed a series of non-compliance issues dating back to 2016. Westgate Solicitors Limited, engaged in conveyancing since 2016, took corrective action after being notified of the investigation on May 17, 2023.

The firm’s conduct breaches included the failure to establish and maintain policies and procedures (P&Ps) between 2016 and June 25, 2017, and a lack of a firm-wide risk assessment (FWRA) from June 26, 2017, to May 17, 2023. Additionally, deficiencies were identified in the establishment and maintenance of policies, controls, and procedures (PCPs) to mitigate money laundering and terrorist financing risks. The firm also neglected to establish an independent audit function and conduct adequate client and matter risk assessments.

The breaches, falling under both the MLRs 2007 and MLRs 2017, led to the firm violating SRA Principles and Codes of Conduct for both 2011 and 2019. The decision noted a pattern of non-compliance persisting for an extended period, coupled with a failure to heed SRA guidance and warning notices.

The SRA imposed a financial penalty of £9,750, along with costs of £1,350, emphasizing the seriousness of the firm’s conduct. Categorized in conduct band C, the financial penalty ranged from 1.6% to 3.2% of the annual domestic turnover, with the firm placed towards the bottom end of this bracket (band C2).

This case underscores the critical need for legal entities to establish and maintain effective anti-money laundering measures, ensuring compliance with regulatory obligations to protect public interest and confidence in the legal profession.

Source: Solicitors Journal, 7 February 2024

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