6 Red Flags of Money Laundering

6 Red Flags of Money Laundering

The February 2023 issue of CA Magazine outlines some red flags of money laundering. Here we list six warning signs, adapted from that article, that accountants cannot afford to ignore.

  1. Evasiveness or unexplained spike in income: A client exhibiting evasive or nervous behaviours could indicate suspicious activity. Likewise, if turnover has doubled or tripled, with no explanation, it’s a red flag. Some clients may also find themselves being used as “money mules”, targeted by criminals using their bank accounts to help move stolen money.
  2. Clients in high-risk countries: Sanctions now prohibit firms from offering accountancy and consulting services to businesses linked to Russia and its ally Belarus, following the Ukraine invasion. While most accountants will be aware of this (along with sanctions against North Korea and Iran), the Government also urges the regulated sector to apply enhanced customer due diligence when dealing with around 30 other high-risk jurisdictions, including the Philippines, the UAE, and Barbados.
  3. Cash-based businesses: Businesses that deal primarily in cash are usually high risk. If you want to onboard a cash-intensive business, you need to monitor it more closely.
  4. A client with frequent changes of accountant can be another red flag.
  5. An unusual date of birth for a Beneficial Owner: A Beneficial Owner must be disclosed on RBO records, which should mean that the company owner can’t hide their identity should they be looking to transfer illegal assets via a shell company. Not all Beneficial Owners are in fact real. For example, in the UK there are more than four million businesses on the Companies House register, but around 4,000 people aged two or under apparently own some of these companies, according to a 2018 report from anti-corruption group Global Witness. It is also important to watch out for typos, as some criminals deliberately misspell their name multiple ways to thwart data searches.
  6. A client using an SLP or NILP: Scottish limited partnerships (SLPs) were originally established in the early 1900s for farm holdings, but the business structure has seen a 21st Century revival with criminals using them as shell companies. Following adverse media attention this criminal activity has moved onto NILPs (Northern Ireland Limited Partnerships) instead.

Accountants ought to be able to recognise these signs of money laundering to help safeguard financial systems and preserve the integrity of financial transactions.

To hear more about the latest AML developments and how to be on the alert for suspicions of money laundering and terrorist financing under the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Acts 2010 to 2021, see our latest Anti-Money Laundering webinar here.

All our CPD courses are listed here, including our Audit Update webinar.

Please go to our website to see our:

  • Anti-Money Laundering Policies Controls & Procedures Manual (March 2022) — View the Table of Contents here.
  • AML Webinar (December 2023) available here, which accompanies the AML Manual. It explains the latest legal AML reporting position for accountancy firms and includes a quiz. Upon completion, you receive a CPD Certificate of attendance in your inbox.
  • Letters of engagement and similar templates. Please visit our site here where immediate downloads are available in Word format. A bulk discount is available for orders of five or more items if bought together.
  • ISQM TOOLKIT, or if you prefer to chat through the different audit risks and potential appropriate responses presented by this new standard, please contact John McCarthy FCA by e-mail at john@jmcc.ie.
  • We typically tailor ISQM training and brainstorming sessions to suit your firm’s unique requirements. The ISQM TOOLKIT 2022 is available to purchase here.