(Adds response from Transparency International, background)
LONDON, March 15 Britain will create a new
watchdog to coordinate the currently splintered approach by
professional bodies to detecting money-laundering, the finance
ministry said on Wednesday.
Twenty-five associations, most of them representing
accountancy and legal firms, watch out for movements of money
raised through crime, potentially allowing money-launderers to
exploit different approaches, the ministry said.
"The creation of the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money
Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) will ensure consistent high
standards across the regime, whilst imposing the minimum
possible burden on legitimate business," the ministry said.
OPBAS will have powers to penalise sectoral bodies for
breaches of anti-money laundering rules and will be housed in
the Financial Conduct Authority, the regulator tasked with
overseeing markets and conduct in the financial system. It will
be funded through a new fee on professional body supervisors.
Transparency International, an anti-corruption campaign
group, said Britain's anti-money laundering system needed reform
but it remained to be seen if the creation of a "supervisors'
supervisor" would work.
"These proposals are novel and untested elsewhere in the
world," Robert Barrington, executive director of Transparency
International UK, said. "The new watchdog will certainly fail if
it is toothless, captured by special interests and as lacking in
transparency as the current system, which is shrouded in secrecy
and riven with conflicts of interest."
Barrington said the government had delayed the announcement
of a new overall plan for reforming the anti-money laundering
system which had been expected in December.
Britain published updated draft money-laundering regulations
on Wednesday as it sought to bring its rules in line with
international standards, the finance ministry said.
(Reporting by William Schomberg and Kirstin Ridley Editing by