Navigating the flood of financial crime news can be a full-time job. That’s why ACFCS brings you the Financial Crime Wave, a weekly feature providing quick updates on key events and developments across diverse fields of financial crime.
This week’s Crime Wave covers new AML standards from the Basel Committee, Canada’s hunt for tax evaders, Bitcoin seizures, and more.
Money Laundering and Sanctions
- In new guidance, Basel Committee sets standards for AML risk management – One of the world’s key standard-setters in the financial crime field released new guidance on recommended policies and procedures for AML programs at financial institutions this week. The document, the drily titled “Sound Management of Risks Related to Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorists,” offers a broad range of compliance best practices, from risk assessment and monitoring to staff training. The Basel Committee is made up of the central banks or banking supervisory agencies of 27 countries, and its guidance sets the pace for the formal financial sector. Read the guidance here.
- US seizes $28 million in Bitcoins from black market website – Even as virtual currencies like Bitcoin grow in popularity and value, they remain attractive to cyberfraudsters, drug traffickers and money launderers. That fact was driven home by the largest-ever US government seizure of Bitcoins last week from the illicit online marketplace Silk Road. The operator of the black market website, 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht, was arrested in October on charges of hacking and drug trafficking. Prosecutors at the time estimated the seizure at $3.6 million, but since then, Bitcoin has more than tripled in value. While virtual currencies can be legitimate ways to make transactions, Silk Road is becoming a prime example of how they can be used to facilitate financial crime. Read more here.
- Rabobank wrestles with AML, Libor rigging failings – The Dutch financial institution Rabobank was hit with a consent order by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in December, requiring the bank to remediate its AML program, the US regulator announced last week. In 2013, the bank was fined $1 billion by US and European regulators for participating in illegal Libor rate-rigging, resulting in the indictment of several former traders last week. Read more here.
Tax Evasion and Enforcement
- Canada hunts tax cheats with bounty for informers – Joining the global push against tax evaders, the Canadian government will offer rewards to informants who tip off tax authorities to significant offshore evasion. Starting last week, the Canadian Revenue Agency is paying up to 15% to tipsters whose information leads to the recovery of any lost taxes over 100,000 Canadian dollars (roughly $91,000 in US dollars). It is part of a number of new measures designed to crack down on tax evasion by Canadian persons. Read more here.
- Out of options and time, 60 Swiss banks join US tax evasion deal – Ahead of a Jan. 1, 2014 deadline, at least 60 Swiss financial institutions agreed to enter a program with the US Justice Department that would see them turn over information on their US account holders in exchange for leniency in tax fraud prosecutions. The program creates four “levels” that Swiss banks can apply for, depending on the degree of their involvement in allegedly facilitating tax evasion by US persons with undeclared assets stashed in Switzerland. Some banks in the program will enter into “non-target” or non-prosecution agreements with US enforcement agencies, while others may still face criminal charges and monetary penalties. Read more here
- Fresh off latest fiasco, UK’s SFO rallies for Rolls Royce probe – Despite a string of failed prosecutions and collapsed cases, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office appears undaunted in its efforts to bring corruption charges against UK companies. Most recently, the beleaguered enforcement agency has reportedly been given a surprise surge in funding reportedly “in the low millions of pounds” to pursue an investigation of Rolls Royce for violations of the UK Bribery Act. The company, the world’s second-largest aircraft manufacturer, is suspected of making bribes to government officials in China and Indonesia. Read more here.
- In FCPA cases, remediation pays off – The US Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission have long trumpeted the importance of a proactive response to anti-corruption compliance, urging companies to correct compliance failings as soon as they are uncovered. This year, US enforcement agencies drove that guidance home, granting “significant credit” to two companies that remediated their compliance programs while FCPA investigations were still underway, according to FCPA expert Mike Volkov. Read more here.