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Money laundering investigations can involve many different agencies, vast amounts of potential evidence and an intensive series of interviews of anyone suspected of laundering.
At Rahman Ravelli, we specialise in defending clients at all stages of money laundering investigations. From the first hint of allegations through to a trial – if the case goes that far.
Our expert lawyers have a strong track record in such cases; we have been involved in cases ranging from hundreds of thousands of pounds through to tens of millions pounds, across multiple jurisdictions and varying business sectors and commodities.
Our compliance team also provides advice on anti-money laundering and Money Laundering Regulations and we are called upon to advise on risk and the implementation of adequate structures. See our commercial services section.
Types of Money Laundering
Money laundering is simply the 'cleaning' or disguising of the origins of the proceeds of crime. It can be committed by someone with their own proceeds (self laundering) or by someone handling someone else’s proceeds. Money laundering schemes range from the simple through to the sophisticated and may involve chains of companies and offshore accounts.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) views money laundering as involving one of three processes:
- Placement - the process of getting criminal money into the financial system.
- Layering - moving money in the financial system through complex webs of transactions, often via offshore companies.
- Integration - the process by which criminal money is absorbed into the economy through activities such as investment in real estate.
PROCEEDS OF CRIME ACT 2002
Money laundering allegations relating to after 24th February 2003 are covered by the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA); sections 327-329.
There are three main offences created by POCA which carry penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment.
Concealing, disguising, converting or transferring criminal property or removing it from the jurisdiction. This is the section prosecutors favour when looking to convict for self-laundering.
Entering into, or becoming concerned in, an arrangement to facilitate the acquisition, retention, use or control by, or on behalf of another person, of criminal property knowing or suspecting that the property is criminal property. This is likely to be used where the alleged launderer is not said to be the principal offender in the criminal conduct.
Acquiring, using or having possession of criminal property. This will often be used to prosecute an 'end user' - the person who buys a major item such as a car or house from a criminal.
There are exceptions to all three charges where the person concerned makes an "authorised disclosure" to the relevant authorities but this is really to protect banks and other businesses from committing what would otherwise be an offence when dealing with criminal property.
The Act is clear that certain businesses are under a duty to inform the police of any customer they believe is laundering criminal cash through their business . As a result, many professionals have fallen foul of the Act.
It can be seen then that the lynchpin of the 3 offences is the notion of 'criminal property'. The prosecution have to prove that the property, whether it is cash, a house, a car or whatever it is, is 'criminal property'. This is defined at s340(3) as property which represents a benefit from criminal conduct, either directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, so long as the launderer 'knows or suspects' that the property represents such a benefit. The Crown has to show that the launderer committed the relevant act (i.e. transfer, concealing etc) knowing or suspecting that the property derived from criminal conduct.
Rebutting Inferences and Preparing your Defence
At Rahman Ravelli, we seek all the evidence and apply for full disclosure of materials obtained by investigating authorities; whether or not they intend to submit it as evidence. We then use all available information to rebut any prosecution inferences: by challenging the evidence or using it to our advantage or by using expert witnesses to explain why a client conducted certain transactions.
It may be that an accountant or auditor with a particular knowledge of some business area can help a defendant show, for example, that it is not unusual for significant cash flow to come from certain types of all cash-only businesses - or that certain losses appeared to fall outside the charged period or the defendant's work shift. The expert may be able to help rebut by comparing with similar businesses in the area and/or show the existence of a reasonable audit trail. Of course there may be a lack of a proper audit trail etc; experts will not always be able to help but in the right circumstances such evidence can make the Crown's case look like speculation.
Rahman Ravelli makes it its job to seek out, fight for and examine all the basic ingredients of the offence to get to the heart of the prosecution case and dismantle it piece by piece.
Our astute defence teams are adept at challenging circumstantial evidence that is produced by the prosecution in money laundering cases. We analyse and challenge any aspect of the prosecution case which, at first sight, may appear damning. Through expert use of evidence, disclosure of evidence, cross-examination and use of expert witnesses we make it our aim to weaken the prosecution's claims.