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Sentencing for money laundering

What is the sentence for money laundering in 2024?

In basic terms, money laundering is the act of concealing the origins of illegally obtained money and will typically involve foreign bank transfers or legitimate businesses to disguise where it came from and not to alert the authorities.

money laundering conspiracy

Money laundering involves two crimes; the crime of illegally sourcing money and the crime of trying to make the proceeds legitimate.

The term ‘money laundering’ was first used in New York when the mafia hid their illegal money behind laundromats. They would use these businesses as a front and would overstate the amount of income that they received to clean their cash sourced from illicit gains. Due to the nature of the payment system used in the laundromat, which was almost always cash, it was practically impossible for the authorities to prove that the money did not come from the laundromat business.

Here are some examples of crimes that are categorised as something that would require help from money laundering conspiracy solicitors:

Hiding illegally gained financials inside a legal business – for instance, running a restaurant and ploughing the illicitly gained funds into equipment and staff wages. The restaurant is a front for an illegal activity that is being used to hide the money.

Smuggling cash – for example, carrying a suitcase stuffed full of money through airports. Perhaps surprisingly, this practice has increased as banks have become more regulated over the past few years.

Spending illegally gained funds on gambling – an example of this might be a person purchasing a large number of chips for betting. The chips are kept for a few days and then cashed in, in exchange for a cheque that is ‘clean’.

Buying life insurance policies – this is a lightly regulated financial product that provides a great way to clean money. The money launderer takes out a life insurance policy on himself or a family member. After some time, they cash it in and receive a cheque that will provide them with clean money.

Property schemes – there are several ways that money can be laundered through the development or purchase of a property or many properties.

In addition to these examples of money laundering, there are many more.

To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of money laundering, we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines below.  Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get any prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.

Read more about Money Laundering offences

Have you been charged with money laundering?

If you or somebody close to you has been charged or arrested in connection with a money laundering case, you are very likely to be feeling stressed and anxious about what might happen next.

There’s a possibility that the person or people charged did not even have any involvement in the case, but they are being accused of playing a major role. If this is a situation that you’re facing, it’s vital that you get your name cleared and any confusion around this cleared up.

A money-laundering prosecution can often involve people who have just innocently been caught up in the investigation due to them being close to the people involved.

It’s essential that you take professional legal advice, support and guidance.

What is the average sentence for money laundering offences?

The maximum sentence for money laundering offences is 14 years in custody. There may also be fees and restrictions applied to how you live your life. There may also be sentencing for the crime committed to gain illegal money in the first place.

How does a court decide on the seriousness of the money laundering offence for sentencing purposes?

The information that judges are given with regards to sentencing are only guidelines, and each case will be looked at individually. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following factors are considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Your previous conviction
  • The seriousness of the case
  • The harm caused

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the money laundering sentence?

When sentencing for money laundering offences, your case will be investigated thoroughly by the police and other regulatory agents.

It will be looked at for whether you have taken part in a group activity or to see if you were forced into it. If you’ve used a false identity, or you have used the identity of others to access more funds, this will be considered to decide your sentence.

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following are some of the other factors considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Any previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was originally legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any serious medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for money laundering with a guilty plea?

In recent years, several changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.

If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one-fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has the discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.

After these times there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one-tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten per cent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.

If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s essential for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

What are some of the other consequences of money laundering offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of a money-laundering offence. These are extra elements of punishment that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that can affect a dependent’s finances, your property or business or financial activity.

Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of money laundering conspiracy include:

  • Compensation for loss
  • Restraint orders
  • Reparation orders
  • Financial reporting order
  • Disqualification from directing a company
  • Confiscation orders

As part of your investigation, you may also have your assets frozen with the possibility of having cash or other assets seized.

In addition, the court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining sufficient evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to court and you are convicted of money laundering and defrauding the HMRC tax office, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

What should you do if you are arrested or charged with money laundering?

If you’ve been arrested, charged or even just invited down to the police station for ‘a chat’, it’s critical that you engage the services of a legal professional.

The primary goal of the police is to secure convictions. They are trained to develop cases so that they can prosecute and get the accused into the courtroom for judgement. Police training focuses on a variety of techniques that can be used to trick you into incriminating yourself.

The police will typically withhold some of the evidence that they have against you. When you take a legal professional to the police station with you, your lawyer can demand to know what other evidence the police has on you, if any.

Another key benefit of having a legal professional by your side when discussing your possible involvement in any money laundering is that they can advise on what to say and what not to say.

By engaging a competent financial crimes solicitor, you will have access to the most up to date laws and access to a team of experienced legal professionals. Here at Stuart Miller Solicitors, we have a broad network of barristers, QCs and expert witnesses with extensive experience of financial crime cases.

Under no circumstances do we recommend that you defend yourself or attend a police station interview without the support of an experienced financial crimes lawyer. If you were to do so, you could incriminate yourself, and the punishment given by the courts could be far more severe than need be.

Being separated from your family and being unable to provide for them due to being imprisoned can be very difficult to contend with.

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

As one of the largest and prominent fraud defence and criminal defence law firm in the UK, our expert money laundering solicitors defend money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering offences daily.

Our money laundering solicitors will not only study the evidence but they will also scrutinise it to expel unlawfully obtained evidence, irrelevant evidence, opinion evidence and other evidence which is not automatically admissible in Court. We will ensure that the prosecution has presented enough evidence to justify the Charges being presented to the Court in the first place. We will challenge witnesses and contest the credibility of the presented evidence while building your defence case and collecting evidence to support your side of the story.

We will work with some of the most talented and brilliant Barristers or QCs in the UK to ensure that the possible defence-angle of every other person in the case is studied, is analysed and is prepared against. In the event that someone decides to give evidence against you or give evidence which damages your defence case, we seek to be prepared and pro-actively challenge the same; rather than rest on the back foot and be unprepared.

Our levels of service for money laundering cases

Whether you are accused of being involved with drugs, with fraud, with money transfer businesses or alleged to be possessing, handling or dealing with illegal monies; our money laundering solicitors are available to assist you and provide emergency advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In any case, taking early action is pivotal to increasing the chances of success. In such complicated and quite often very pressure-filled investigations or prosecutions, you will require specialist advice and legal support at every turn.

Depending on the stage of the case you consult us, we will devise a case strategy in line with your short term and long-term objectives. We believe in preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, and this philosophy ensures we are highly unlikely to encounter surprises in the prosecution’s case.

Our money laundering solicitors are specialists who defend money laundering allegations daily. We will advise you on important issues concerning the seizure of your assets, the seizure of your cash, Restraint Orders and the dreaded Confiscation Proceedings.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

If you’d like to have a no-obligation chat with us before you instruct us to take your case, then call us today.

In addition to giving you a free consultation, we can also represent you at the police station if you’ve been arrested. We can look at securing your legal aid.

Please Contact Us and ask to speak to our money laundering lawyers and fraud solicitors to arrange a meeting in person, online or by telephone. If you prefer, you can WhatsApp us from the link you will find at the bottom banner if you open this page on your mobile phone device.

Get in touch with us now for money laundering legal help.


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