On 15 December 2007 new money laundering regulations came in to force that, for the first time had a significant impact of the means by which UK company formation agents conduct their business.
Money laundering provisions had previously only affected businesses such as accountants, solicitors and banks that were often be used as a way for cash and other assets from illegal activities to be “cleaned”.
As a step towards making it more difficult for illegally earned funds to make their way in to avenues of legitimate revenue sources, the government sought a means of controlling such activities “upstream”; earlier on in the chain.
One such measure is the control, regulation and policing on companies registered in the UK. In circumstances where UK company formation agents provide certain services to specific clients or to the general public, that registration agent must be known to the government authorities.
Two primary products frequently provided by UK company set-up agents are those of registered office facilities and nominee services.
The money laundering “know your client” provisions now govern these items and the provider is required to register with HM Revenue and Customs as business not regulated by any other profession body.
The kinds of compliance duties which are needed are similar to those which have governed accountant and the like. These include obtaining copies of current passports and utility bills to verify the identity of the customer.
Another similarity with exists is the obligations the alert the authorities in the event of any reasonable grounds for suspicion that the client has or is likely to receive monies from illicit dealings.
Exceptions to Registering
Certain exemptions exist where the formation agent can negate the responsibility to register for money laundering purposes. This provision permits those who are regulated by a recognised professional body such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, the Financial Services Authority or similar organisation to not declare themselves to the HMCE scheme.
This would be by the virtue that the membership of one of these bodies automatically carries with it money laundering obligations which are policed by the relevant organisation internally.
Read the 2007 Money Laundering Act