Solicitors are 'all too aware' of the threat of money laundering, the Law Society has said in response to the Russia report by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. The long-awaited report, published yesterday, warns that lawyers are part of an 'industry of enablers' which has helped 'wittingly or unwittingly, in the extension of Russian influence which is often linked to promoting the nefarious interests of the Russian state'.
The report adds: 'A large private security industry has developed in the UK to service the needs of the Russian elite, in which British companies protect the oligarchs and their families, seek kompromat [compromising material] on competitors and, on occasion, help launder money through offshore shell companies and fabricate "due diligence" reports, while lawyers provide litigation support.'
Commenting on the use of unexplained wealth orders under the Criminal Finances Act, the committee says that: 'Whilst the orders appear to provide the National Crime Agency with more clout, the reality is that it is highly probable that the oligarchy will have the financial means to ensure that lawyers … find ways to circumvent this legislation.'
A Law Society statement noted that: 'The UK has one of the strictest anti-money laundering regimes in the world. Solicitors are highly regulated and – in line with their obligations – are all too aware of the dangers posed by international criminals. They remain vigilant across all aspects of practice for warning signs of money laundering.'