Dirty money laws 'tricky' for small players - lawyer

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Mark Todd estimates that up to $4 billion worth of money could be laundered in New Zealand each year. Photo / Thinkstock
Mark Todd estimates that up to $4 billion worth of money could be laundered in New Zealand each year. Photo / Thinkstock

As the deadline approaches for new anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws to take effect, an Auckland lawyer has started a business to help small entities get up to speed.

From June 30 next year, financial institutions and casinos will face new obligations under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act AML/CFT.

Financial service businesses of all sizes will have to meet a range of requirements, such as providing risk assessments and compliance plans.

Mark Todd, a partner with commercial law firm Bell Gully, said he realised late last year that smaller entities were going to struggle to meet their obligations.

"We knew that large businesses like the banks were completely across this, with large teams of consultants and spending literally tens of millions of dollars to become compliant," Todd said.

"But a completely different approach had to be found to meet the needs of smaller businesses."

He and business partner Richard Manthel recently launched Anti-Money Laundering Solutions Limited (AML), offering businesses a range of web-based customised products, as well as auditing and consulting services.

"We think for a lot of the smaller businesses, it's a really complex area and it will be tricky for them to get up to speed on their own.

"For a very small entity, it's also very expensive."

The whole system is based online, which gives clients a "do it yourself alternative" to traditional consulting, Todd said.

"We know that businesses need to minimise compliance costs and our entire approach is based on using technology and innovative business systems to generate efficiencies for our clients."

Todd said he had been with Bell Gully for 15 years and was finishing up in a few months to focus on AML Solutions, at least in the short-term.

The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) describes money laundering as a method used by criminals to disguise money obtained illegally, such as through drugs.

Financers of terrorism use similar methods as money launderers to avoid detection, the FMA said on its website.

The FMA said the new obligations on businesses are fair and that the authority has been working with market participants to help them through the transition process.

Businesses should get their risk assessment and AML/CFT programme in place well ahead of June 30, it said.

According to the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, New Zealand is one of the least corrupt nations on earth.

In one of a series of videos AML is running on its website, the host said no-one knew how much money was laundered in New Zealand.

"However, it could be somewhere between $1 billion and $4 billion each year," she said.

Three supervisors - the FMA, Department of Internal Affairs, and Reserve Bank - are overseeing implementation of the new laws and have been running a series of seminars.

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