In letters to all UK political party leaders, ICAEW has offered its support in tackling economic crime.
The letters, from ICAEW’s Chief Executive Michael Izza, outline measures that ICAEW would like to see the government introduce in the next parliamentary session, either through the next economic crime bill or the review of the AML/CTF regulatory and supervisory regimes.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the need to ensure that the UK’s defences against economic crime are robust and effective,” Izza says in the letter. “The desire to drive dirty money out of our financial systems is catalysing political will and bringing cross-party unity on the need for reform.”
ICAEW commends the government for the pace with which the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 was taken through Parliament, and urges further action.
Izza outlines three specific areas where the government could strengthen the regulation of accountants and make them even more efficient gatekeepers to the UK’s financial systems, in the public interest:
Make ‘accountant’ a protected title
The letters compare the use of comparable titles in other professions, such as ‘solicitor’ and ‘architect’. These are restricted by law to properly qualified individuals, subject to ongoing technical, ethical and disciplinary oversight by a recognised supervisory body. This level of assurance does not apply to accountancy. “We believe that removing the ability for unregulated advisers to represent themselves as accountants would be another significant step in protecting the public, and the public interest.”
Facilitate information sharing by accountants
Forthcoming economic crime legislation will contain measures to provide businesses with more confidence to share information on suspected money laundering. “We believe it is essential this legislation is drafted to cover accountants and accountancy firms, and include a ‘legal or professional duty or right’ to disclose as is required under the Code of Ethics, thereby allowing for the sharing of information received in confidence.”
Improve intelligence sharing by law enforcement
ICAEW receives limited intelligence from the authorities if and when any supervised firm is suspected of involvement in money laundering. “ICAEW would welcome the opportunity to work with government to extend information-sharing powers to law enforcement, ensuring that they are implemented in a practical and effective manner.”
Izza concludes by highlighting the fact that the next economic crime bill and the review into the UK’s AML/CTF regulatory regime creates an opportunity to tackle professional enablers. “The proposed reforms set out above would significantly strengthen the ability of accountancy regulators, and the wider profession, to fight economic crime.”
Read the full text of the letter.
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