UK legal, accounting bodies 'weak' in policing money laundering -report

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: FCA signage seen at their head offices in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Professional legal and accounting bodies in Britain continue to show significant weaknesses in policing how their members apply anti-money laundering rules, a regulatory body said on Friday.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the risks of money laundering and illicit finance, the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) said in its annual report.

OPBAS, housed within the UK Financial Conduct Authority, said that despite some improvements, anti-money laundering supervision by professional body supervisors (PBS) was still not good enough.

"Significant weaknesses remain in many PBS supervisory activity," OPBAS said in its annual report.

OPBAS said it often has to rely on cooperation rather than compulsion to improve standards.

"This is making a stronger case for more material supervisory system reform," it said.

Britain has begun reforms to crack down on "dirty money" and organised crime by beefing up the powers of its public registry of companies to make it an active gatekeeper against dubious information.

The finance ministry has already consulted on potential reform, however significantly improving the supervisory landscape could take several years to implement, OPBAS said.

"So, it is important that all participants continue to identify actions that will improve effectiveness within our current anti-money laundering framework. OPBAS will continue to push for ongoing improvements in PBS supervisory effectiveness using our current tools and powers."

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Susan Fenton)