OFT Launches on-line Register of Supervised Businesses
A searchable register of the businesses supervised by the OFT under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 has been made public for the first time.
The OFT has been given a role under the Regulations to supervise the anti-money laundering controls of estate agents and consumer credit financial institutions (CCFIs). Consumer credit financial institutions are businesses engaged in consumer credit lending which are not either authorised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) or supervised by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as a money service business.
The Regulations seek to reduce businesses’ vulnerability to being used for money laundering or terrorist financing by, for example, having to apply risk sensitive policies and procedures on the verification of customer identity, record keeping, training staff and reporting suspicious activity to the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
Under the Regulations, estate agents and some businesses engaging in consumer credit lending are supervised by the OFT to reduce the risk of them being used for money laundering or terrorist financing purposes. These businesses need to register with the OFT.
Estate agents are those businesses engaged in estate agency work.
A non-public register has been in place since 2009, however making the list of registered businesses searchable on the OFT website allows the public, industry, and regulators including Trading Standards to check and notify the OFT if businesses are not registered.
The register also allows supervised businesses to make sure their basic information is up-to-date and accurate.
Failure to register a business could result in the imposition of a penalty by the OFT and/or prosecution. The OFT’s anti-money laundering compliance team uncovered 192 unregistered businesses in England, Wales and Scotland in 2011. All have since registered although penalties totalling £11,500 were imposed on five businesses.
12,438 businesses are currently registered – 6742 estate agents and 5696 credit lending companies.
David Fisher, OFT Director of Anti-Money Laundering, said: “By making our register available for all to see, we hope to encourage businesses that should be listed to come forward and register, and others to tell us about businesses that are not registered. The penalties for not registering are significantly higher than the costs of registering.”
Other businesses to which the Regulations apply may be supervised by the FSA, HMRC or other bodies.