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Money Laundering Articles

What is the sentence for assisting Money Laundering in the UK?

If you have been accused of, or charged with, assisting money laundering in the UK, you are understandably worried about what might come next. Money laundering, and the related crime of assisting money laundering, are serious crimes that can result in severe penalties, including a prison sentence. In the UK, there are a number of laws in place to combat money laundering, and on first glance, they seem quite intimidating. This is because financial crime has a considerable impact not just on individual victims, but also on the broader economy. This article will explore the sentencing guidelines for assisting money laundering offences in the UK, and will provide some examples of money laundering to help you understand what activities might fall under the remit of this crime. We also look at sentencing and defences to help you plan your next move.

What is the offence of money laundering in the UK?

Money laundering is a criminal offence in the UK and it is defined as any activity that conceals or disguises the true origin of money or assets achieved through criminal activities.

Money laundering is the process of disguising the proceeds of illegal activity as legitimate funds. Under Part 7 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, it is an offence to conceal, disguise, convert, transfer, or remove criminal property from England and Wales, or to bring criminal property into England and Wales.

It is also an offence to enter into or become concerned in an arrangement that a person knows or suspects facilitates the acquisition, retention, use, or control of criminal property by or on behalf of another person. This includes both individuals and organisations. The maximum sentence for money laundering under this Act is 14 years in prison.

When it comes to assisting money laundering, the offence is just the same, as is the punishment. In England and Wales, it is a criminal offence to assist an offender with the intention of preventing that person from being arrested or prosecuted for a relevant offence with the knowledge or belief that the person has committed the offence. This act of assistance is known as ‘assisting an offender.’

What are some examples of money laundering?

Money laundering offences can be committed by individuals or companies, and can even involve international networks. Common examples of activities that could constitute money laundering include using false identities to open bank accounts, transferring funds between countries using different currencies, and mixing illegal proceeds with legal funds.

When prosecutors look at money laundering offences, they are looking at the following types or categories of actions:

  1. Layering: This involves transferring funds through a series of complex transactions designed to make it difficult to trace the money back to its source. This can include moving money through multiple bank accounts, using shell companies, or making investments in high-risk ventures.
  2. Smurfing: This involves breaking up large sums of money into smaller, more easily transportable amounts, then depositing them into different bank accounts to avoid detection. This is often done by multiple individuals, known as ‘smurfs’, who are each given a specific amount of money to deposit.
  3. Trade-based laundering: This involves using the international trade system to launder money. This can include over- or under-invoicing for goods or services, mislabelling goods, or using fake invoices to hide the true nature of a transaction.
  4. Structuring: This involves making multiple small deposits or withdrawals in an attempt to avoid triggering the reporting requirements for large transactions. This can include making deposits or withdrawals just below the reporting threshold, or using multiple accounts or locations to make the transactions.
  5. Casino laundering: This involves using casinos or other gaming establishments to launder money. This can include making large cash purchases of chips or other gambling instruments, then exchanging them for a check or wire transfer. The money is then laundered through the casino’s banking system.

As you can see, money laundering is a broad offence and numerous types of financial activity may constitute an offence.

What evidence is used in money laundering cases?

Money laundering cases in the UK typically rely on a combination of different types of evidence, including financial records, witness testimony, and documentary evidence.

  • Financial records, such as bank statements and transaction records, can provide evidence of the flow of funds and show whether any suspicious or unusual patterns or transactions have occurred. This can help to establish the elements of the money laundering offence, such as the concealment, disguise, or movement of funds.
  • Witness testimony, such as that of bank employees, accountants, or other individuals involved in the money laundering scheme, can provide valuable insight into the operations of the scheme and the roles of the various participants.
  • Documentary evidence, such as contracts, invoices, or other business records, can provide further support for the prosecution’s case by showing the details of the transactions and the parties involved. This can help to establish the knowledge, intention, and other mental elements of the offence.

In addition to these types of evidence, police and financial crime investigators may also use surveillance techniques, such as wiretaps or undercover operations, to gather further information about the money laundering scheme and the individuals involved in it.

What is the sentence for assisting money laundering in the UK?

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, if you are found guilty of assisting money laundering in the UK, you could face up to 14 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine. Money laundering offences are treated very seriously by UK authorities, and the sentence for assisting money laundering offences can be more severe if you are found to have had a leadership role in organising or directing such activity.

The court will also consider aggravating factors when deciding on the sentence. For example, if you have been convicted of other related financial crimes, or if you have been found to have used sophisticated techniques to conceal criminal funds. If convicted, you could also be subject to a confiscation order for any assets or property that can be traced back to your involvement with money laundering offences.

Likewise, the judge will consider mitigating factors. Mitigating factors are circumstances that may reduce the severity of a crime or the punishment for it. In the case of the offence of money laundering, some possible mitigating factors could include the following:

  • The defendant played a minor role in the money laundering scheme and did not personally benefit from it.
  • The defendant cooperated with the authorities and provided valuable information that helped to investigate and prosecute other individuals involved in the scheme.
  • The defendant has no prior criminal record and has shown remorse for their actions.
  • The defendant has taken steps to make amends, such as returning any illicit funds or helping to recover assets that were acquired through the money laundering scheme.
  • The defendant was under duress or coercion when they committed the offence, and had no real choice in the matter.

A judge or other decision-maker in a criminal case will consider these and other factors when determining the appropriate sentence for a defendant convicted of money laundering.

Defences for assisting money laundering in the UK

If you are accused of assisting money laundering in the UK, there are a number of potential defences that can be used to argue your case. For example, you may be able to demonstrate that you had no knowledge of the criminal activities being conducted or that you did not have any intention to further the crime. Additionally, if you are accused of assisting money laundering through a company, it is possible to argue that you were not involved in the decision-making process.

As with other crimes, you may also be able to rely on ‘general defences’, which include:

  • Necessity: This defence may be used when a person commits a crime because they were faced with an emergency situation that required them to act in order to prevent greater harm.
  • Mistake: This defence may be used when a person did not have the necessary mental state to commit the crime because they were acting under a genuine and reasonable mistake of fact.
  • Duress: This defence may be used when a person commits a crime because they were threatened or forced to do so by another person.
  • Insanity: This defence may be used when a person was suffering from a mental disorder that prevented them from understanding the nature or wrongfulness of their actions at the time of the crime.

These are just some examples of potential defences to crime under English criminal law. In any given case, the specific facts and circumstances will determine which defences, if any, may be available. Remember, every defence strategy must be backed up by evidence.

Where to get more help with money laundering offences?

It is important to seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible if you are accused of assisting money laundering. An experienced criminal defence solicitor can help you to understand your rights and explain the options available to you. With a good legal team on your side, it may be possible to avoid a conviction or reduce the severity of the sentence imposed. If you are found guilty, your lawyer will be able to provide advice and assistance with applications for confiscation orders and other related issues. Contact the experts at Stuart Miller Solicitors today for a free consultation about your options.


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