Making You More Aware of Money Laundering and Immigration Fraud Risks
Last February, a scam orchestrated by solicitors involved shipping Eastern European women over to the UK and marrying them off to men from non-EU countries, for as much as £14,000 per bride. A solicitor was jailed for ten years after the scam was discovered during a money laundering and drugs racket bust-up performed by the police.
In a huge breach of immigration law, the solicitor was charged with receiving criminal proceeds. The solicitor and his team even went as far as to fabricate fake documents. This allowed participants of this illegal activity to claim UK benefits and to live in this country. The solicitors were accused of taking advantage of the pressure on the UK Border Agency.
The judge presiding over this case accused the solicitors involved of breaching the public’s trust in the legal system. Approximately 1,800 men were allowed to live in the UK thanks to sham marriages conducted over the space of 8 years. These couples usually had never met before their wedding day.
Some of the men included members of the Albanian mafia. More than 8,000 immigration applications were handled through this law firm between 2004 and 2011.
The women who were flown into the country often didn’t share a common language with their husband-to-be. The clients would then travel to Devon and Scotland to have their marriage in a registrar office. The company would provide fake employer references, forged files, and fraudulent tenancy documents as part of a ‘marriage package.’
In the end, only £2 million of unaccounted income had been found. It’s thought that the rest of the funds were smuggled out of the country. The brothers who ran the programme had undergone marriages arranged by the firm.
Money Laundering Risks
UK laws on money laundering are stern and you can be convicted of this crime just by unwittingly having criminal cash in your possession or spending it. You’re required, by law, to report any suspicious behaviour that might indicate organised criminals are targeting your firm to create sham marriages and fraudulent visa documents.
If you even slightly suspect that criminal activity of this nature is taking place, you will be accused of fraud and money laundering, if you don’t report it to the police.
Although you may not be conducting the fraud yourself, the proceeds of the crime will be going towards your income, so you will also be enjoying the benefits of fraudulent activity also.
Protect Your Firm from Money Laundering
Always appoint a Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO) or money laundering lawyer who can safeguard your company from criminal activity. Staff should be aware that they can report to the MLRO at any point with concerns. An MLRO will be able to assess any money laundering or immigration offence risks and will point out any information that could lead to suspicions of fraudulent activity.
You may have to part with certain clients, in light of any suspect information.