Anti-money laundering

It is a pain for solicitors and clients alike, but anti-money laundering legislations requires solicitors to verify the identities of their clients and providers of funds, normally at the outset of a transaction – and certainly before any funds are received.

We make this clear to clients, and make it as easy as possible for them to deal with the requirements: they can call in to our office without an appointment during working hours, bringing their passport or photo-card driving licence, which we copy; normally, we can carry out all other checks online, though occasionally, if a problem is revealed, we need more details or paperwork from the client. If it is not convenient for a client to call in personally, we have an arrangement whereby they can visit a Post Office local to them and deal with proof of identity there; we then carry out our other online checks as normal.

Occasionally things go wrong: in one recent case, a purchaser client – having told us the funds would be sent from his own account – arranged for the completion money to be sent by his mother, the day before completion was due. To allow us to deal with the funds, and protect the client from being in breach of contract because the money would have to be “frozen”, the client’s mother had to journey to our office to deal with proof of identity the evening before completion.  It meant staying at work until 7:30 that evening, but at least the desired result was achieved.

The main problem is that clients do not accept – however clearly we tell them – that it is essential to deal with this process as early as possible in the transaction – before any work is done, except in fairly exceptional circumstances (which do not include a client’s unwillingness to fill out a form). As a result, transactions are often delayed in starting while we chase clients for proof of ID, etc – in one extreme case recently, a client wanted to complete a pub purchase within a fortnight to secure a good price, but delayed dealing with proof of ID for a week, meaning we had a real problem achieving the deadline


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