The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) intends to reject a recommendation that it should provide solicitors and other professionals with feedback when they make suspicious activity reports (SARs), the Gazette has learned.
A House of Lords committee last week asked SOCA to provide ‘increased levels of case-by-case feedback’ to professionals making SARs.
However, SOCA said that the ‘wide range of activity around any one SAR and the variety and number of end-users makes it impractical and unjustifiable to offer universal feedback on a case-by-case basis.’
In its report on money laundering and the financing of terrorism, the House of Lords home affairs sub-committee of the European Union committee called for the UK’s anti-money laundering regime to be relaxed. It recommended that the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 should be amended so that solicitors are no longer obliged to report minor regulatory breaches committed by clients.
Law Society chief executive Des Hudson said he was pleased the committee had listened to Chancery Lane’s long-held concerns. Earlier this year, the Society told the committee that the reporting burden on UK solicitors is far greater than for lawyers elsewhere in Europe.
The committee said it was ‘vital’ that SOCA makes a ‘serious attempt’ to calculate the costs and benefits of the SARs regime in the UK. But SOCA told the Gazette that it ‘oversees the operation of the regime, not the regulations’ and therefore it is ‘not for [SOCA] to comment on the costs of compliance’.
The committee pressed the government to improve international cooperation on anti-money laundering. Five EU member states have failed to implement the latest AML directive, while a bilateral agreement between the EU and US has not been ratified despite negotiations concluding more than six years ago.
The latest SOCA figures show that, between October 2007 and September 2008, solicitors alone filed 6,460 SARs. Solicitors filed 11,300 SARs in the previous year.