Anti-Money Laundering: a Comparative Review of Legislative Development

The historical background of money laundering legislation began with the drug trade.  Initial AML efforts were introduced primarily to curb the ability of drug cartels to use the proceeds of their crimes to process money from illegal drug activity and build larger drug businesses. The key historical turning point of AML legislation was the Vienna Convention of 1988 (“Vienna Convention”), where 43 countries agreed on an approach to address money laundering rather than solely focusing on the drugs trafficking and related monetary issues. Shortly thereafter, the Financial Action Task Force (“FATF”) of the G-7 issued a report specifically addressing money laundering, citing 40 recommendations which needed to be implemented by the international community to effectively address this issue. These recommendations have driven the structure of the AML regimes of Canada the U.S. and the U.K. to date.

The current Canadian AML legislative system was originally designed to address drug offences but underwent two major changes. The initial change occurred with the adoption of Part XII.2 into the Criminal Code (“Code”), which specifically criminalized laundering and possessing the proceeds of crime. This Part also granted powers to law enforcement to detain, search, and seize property from anyone thought to be in possession of the proceeds of crime, expanding the scope of enforcement powers available in Canadian law against money laundering. The second major change occurred in the early 2000’s with the adoption of the current Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.[1]  This law is Canada’s current AML regime and implements various tools such as reporting obligations, recordkeeping obligations, additional offences, and administrative monetary penalties to strengthen enforcement against money laundering. Furthermore, this legislation also created Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (“FINTRAC”), Canada’s special intelligence unit, which has responsibility for reviewing reports and conducting preliminary investigations into money laundering investigations.

Currently, the focus of money laundering prevention efforts has centered on increasing international cooperation and addressing terrorist financing. The FATF and World Bank have constantly advocated the need for international unity in addressing organized crime and money laundering by terrorist organizations as a necessary precursor to making any significant change in this global issue. Although there is some harmonization amongst countries such as Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., there are various other countries, such as the Cayman Islands, whose legislative system are not harmonized.

It has been 28 years since the FATF’s initial 40 recommendation report, and as can be seen from this review of the Canadian legislation, the international harmonization in money laundering protocol sought by the report is starting to take form.  Although the AML regimes of all these countries do have various nuanced differences, the structural similarities have made cooperation between agencies such as FINTRAC, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”)[2], and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (“SOCA”)[3] both more feasible and more seamless.  Although money laundering is still a serious problem that totals in the billions of dollars worldwide, the integration of regulators, enforcement regimes and standardization of detection protocols has made it much more challenging for criminals and terrorists to launder the proceeds of their criminal activity.

The new reporting-based approach adopted by Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. since the early 2000’s has marked a significant and effective shift in AML strategy from a reactionary approach to a more proactive one.  By creating regulators, thresholds, and reporting systems for transactions at a higher risk of being related to laundering the proceeds of crime, these countries are able to attack money launderers in the early placement stage when they are most likely to be caught, as tracing proceeds during the layering and integration stages consumes more resources and time.  In addition to this reporting-based shift, the criminalization of more activities related to money laundering, such as tipping, possessing the proceeds of crime, and money laundering itself, and the stiff penalties associated with these offences has helped to deter this behaviour.

The key next steps in the fight against money laundering will revolve around both improving the current AML regimes of these countries, and gaining more buy-in from other countries to improve and somewhat harmonize their money laundering policies.  Due to the nimbleness of criminal organizations as compared with slower moving government processes, the legislation required to address money laundering is often a step behind the techniques developed by money launderers.  Larger economies such as Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. will have to continue to review and update their AML policies at a faster pace to keep up with criminal organizations which are constantly evolving.  Furthermore, these countries will have to engage in diplomatic efforts to bring countries without sound AML legislation on board, which will be no easy task.  The inherent focus on confidentiality in offshore jurisdictions is not something many of these offshore jurisdictions will want to forego, largely due to the positive impact these regimes have on their national economies.  However, since money laundering removes funds that could otherwise be legitimately spent to grow the economy, leaders in the field of AML will have to advance this message, but will also have to be careful to not infringe the national sovereignty of these other jurisdictions.  Although the challenge to stop money laundering is still an uphill journey, the vast improvements made to the AML regimes of Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. since the mid-20th century may make the climb a little less steep.

[1] Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, SC 2000, c 17 (the “PCMLTFA”).

[2] The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is a bureau of the U.S. Department of Treasury and the American equivalent to FINTRAC.

[3] The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) is the United Kingdom equivalent to FINTRAC.

Safety violation results in contractor getting 18 months in jail

On Sept. 18, Sylvain Fournier, a Quebec based contractor, was sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by two years of probation.[1] Fournier had been found guilty of manslaughter under the Criminal Code relating to a workers death by means of a breach of Quebec safety code. The case is the first of its kind in Canada and raises serious concerns about the use of criminal law to enforce provincial regulatory safety standards.

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London Calling – The case of Skansen and UK Jurisdictional Reach for Corporate Bribery

The is a guest blog post by Nick Johnson, Q.C., from Exchange Chambers & Bright Line Law, London.

Southwark Crown Court is a designated centre for many of the UK’s serious fraud and white-collar crime jury trials. It is a drab building in a stunning location. There’s a spectacular view of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London over the river, obscured only by HMS Belfast, a WWII cruiser permanently moored as a museum and which, last Christmas, flew the Canadian flag in tribute to the participation of the Royal Canadian Navy in the Battle of North Cape. Hundreds of Canadian sailors served on British ships in the north, including eighty on the Belfast.

As the Maple Leaf flew, I acted for the MD of Skansen Interiors Ltd, a London based fit-out and refurbishment contractor, in a bribery case which concluded last April. The company itself and two of its directors faced charges under the Bribery Act 2010 (“UKBA”), relating to making improper payments in order to secure contracts for two City of London office refurbishments worth about £6m.

The case was a legal first in the UK in that the company, despite having carried out an internal investigation and self-reported to the UK National Crime Agency, then faced a Section 7 UKBA prosecution before a jury in the Crown Court. Section 7 has an unusually wide reach. A company itself is guilty of a criminal offence where a person associated with it bribed another, even where management might be completely unaware of the bribe. It is a rare form of corporate criminal strict liability, subject to a defence where the company can prove, on a balance of probabilities, that it had in place adequate procedures to prevent such conduct. Of course, the legislation is aimed at compelling a change in corporate culture when it comes to effective anti-bribery measures. Quite apart from the interesting questions the case posed as to what may amount to “adequate procedures” and why it was that an entirely co-operative company was not offered a UK Deferred Prosecution Agreement, the focus upon the Section 7 requirements was a clear reminder of how even a non-UK corporate could well end up in a UK criminal dock.

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Training Executives On Anti-Corruption Laws – Best Practices

This week, White Collar Post features a guest post from internationally known compliance and anti-corruption expert Marc Y. Tassé.

Good strategists manage uncertainty by playing the probabilities, but too many executives use wishful thinking when it comes to anti-corruption compliance. Playing the probabilities means understanding the odds of success. Just 1 in 12 companies manages to Mitigate Reputational Risk Exposure resulting from non-compliance and therefore this result in a High Level of Reputational Risk Exposure.

Non-compliance seriously increases risk and liability; depreciates M&A and joint venture value; potentially damages the brand; undermines and reduces trust and confidence; increases the potential for prosecution; and threatens sustainability. Executives must be pro-active and continuously diligent in their efforts to mitigate individual and organizational risks.

Corporate board members devote significant time to financial oversight and strategy, while ignoring steps needed to protect and promote its most important intangible asset – its culture and reputation. Corporate boards are due for a rude awakening – compliance expectations and competing stakeholders are demanding increased more effective oversight. Directors need to learn how to carry out these important functions.

When training executives on anti-corruption laws we need to make them realize that Boards and senior executives need to do substantially more than a once-a-year “flyover” of their anti-corruption compliance programs if they expect the DOJ to conclude that their program meets the government’s definition of “effective.”

Boards need to be well-versed in all elements of the anti-corruption compliance program, regularly interact with compliance and legal personnel, and receive timely briefings on the program and the personnel responsible for its stewardship and operationalization. Directors and senior executives must understand that any compliance failures are something that they may have to answer to.

The existence of adequate policies and procedures does not provide a full defence against bribery charges but can be a useful tool for negotiating with authorities or avoiding proceedings against corporate entities. Further, because liability can also be founded on ‘wilful blindness’, the existence of anti-corruption policies and procedures can be helpful in rebutting any inference that a company or its executives ignored bribery.

There is still a place for tone at the top. The board and senior leadership must set the right tone in their communications across the company and outwardly. But tone needs to be paired with persistent actions on the part of the board and senior leadership signaling that ethics and compliance are a top priority and that the company is committed to doing business the right way and is prepared to back up its words with actions, including walking away from business and relationships that are not in alignment with the company’s organizational ethos. That is how tone at the top becomes conduct at the top.

When training Boards and senior executives on anti-corruption laws, we also need to make them realize that they cannot control the integrity of individuals, but they can certainly influence it. An organization’s culture influences the integrity of those employees that are either on the fence or would rationalize wrongdoing when the culture promotes willful blindness, permits ignorance of policies and controls, or encourages the avoidance of those controls through unreasonable business goals and rewarding success by any means.

Finally, Boards and senior executives need to be aware that no controls, compliance program, or business culture can eliminate or totally prevent people without integrity from doing wrong, but the absence of those factors greatly increases the capacity of wrongdoers to operate with impunity, while the strong presence of those factors greatly increases the likelihood of preventing and detecting wrongdoing, as well as providing a foundation to mitigate its impacts and consequences on the organization.

CRA Can Examine Items Seized During Criminal Investigation Before Validity of Search Warrant Confirmed

By Anastasia Reklitis and Jenny P. Mboutsiadis

The Canada Revenue Agency (“CRA”) can examine and make copies of items seized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (“RCMP”) pursuant to search warrants issued during a criminal investigation without having to wait for a determination of whether the warrants were valid.  This was confirmed by the British Columbia Supreme Court in Canada Revenue Agency v. Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2016 BCSC 2275.  The CRA has not appealed the decision.

In this case, the CRA applied to the court under subsection 490(15) of the Criminal Code, RSC, 1985, c. C-46, for access to items obtained by search warrants.  The search warrants had been issued based on the belief that those named in the warrants (“Named Persons”) had committed criminal offences, such as laundering proceeds of crime, possession of property obtained by crime, and importing and trafficking in a controlled substance.  The items seized included large amounts of cash, numerous documents and computers, and other electronic devices and media containing business, accounting, and tax records.

The CRA argued that it was permitted access because it is a person “who has an interest in what is detained”, thereby satisfying the applicable Criminal Code provision.  The Named Persons opposed the CRA’s application on numerous grounds.  The RCMP took no position.

The Named Persons’ first argument was that a determination that the seizure is lawful is a pre-condition to the CRA’s entitlement to access any materials.  The Named Persons had already commenced the process in the Provincial Court that could possibly lead to the quashing of some or all of the search warrants and argued that, therefore, the CRA’s application should be adjourned until the validity of the warrants is determined from that process.  The court rejected this argument and explained that the warrants were presumptively valid and the Named Persons have the burden to establish otherwise.  A mere challenge with vague possibilities was not enough to satisfy the court that the warrants were invalid.

The Named Persons’ second argument was that the CRA’s application should fail because it did not have an interest in the seized items.  The court found to the contrary:  the CRA did have an interest because the items could be relevant to various tax investigations in which it was involved, which were independent of the RCMP investigations.  In particular, the items were relevant to determining potential tax offences involving some or all of the Named Persons, including tax evasion and the filing of false tax returns.

The Named Persons’ third argument was that any order allowing the CRA access should contain specific restrictions relating to privacy, privileged material, and relevance.  The court refused to place any restrictions as it did not find it appropriate to limit the examination of the evidence.

The CRA’s application was allowed and access to the seized items was granted.  In doing so, the court stated that there is nothing inherently wrong with law enforcement officials cooperating and sharing legally-obtained information.  Preventing the CRA from accessing the RCMP gathered information would delay the CRA’s investigation, thereby prejudicing its effectiveness and the likelihood of charges arising from it.  The court’s view was that it is in the public interest that the RCMP and CRA investigations proceed concurrently as they concern offences arising from the same search warrants.