LONDON 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 Jeremy Gaunt)