At a training session recently, someone asked me about the reporting regime in their firm, and whether they had to send their SAR via their manager. Oh no, I said – in fact, definitely don’t send it via the manager, in case the manager is the inside man for the laundering (this always gets a laugh); by telling them you’re suspicious, you could be tipping off. And back came the question I have had a few times: what if the MLRO is the inside man? And it’s a very fair comment: I have always thought that, were I to move over to the dark side, I would do my best to buy a tame MLRO and then feed all of my money through his institution, safe in the knowledge that his staff can be as suspicious as they like but he’s not going to pass on anything to the authorities. So have we had any instances of corrupt MLROs – or, in the current vernacular, professional enablers holding the role of MLRO?
I must admit that I can’t think of any. We’ve had lazy MLROs – Mr Hussain at Habib Bank comes to mind. Back in May 2012, the UK’s FSA (as it then was) fined him £17,500 for poor performance in almost every area of his MLRO duties, from designing the due diligence procedures to overseeing them, from training staff to sharing AML information with his board. And we’ve had MLROs whose behaviour sailed so close to the wind, such as Mrs Jardine in Jersey in 2015, that they have been banned from working in their regulated sector. But I don’t think we’ve had an MLRO who has been shown to be willingly complicit with criminals. Or perhaps they are so good at this that we haven’t yet spotted them. One thing’s for sure: they’d be past masters as laundering their corrupt payments.