Apologies for the unexpectedly long silence: I was felled by covid. Thankfully I am on the mend and once more have enough energy for outrage and indignation.
I had a Dutch boyfriend for several years, during which time I developed a liking for salty liquorice and an extremely limited Dutch vocabulary. One phrase he did not teach me was Verwijzingsportaal Bankgegevens, but isn’t it marvellous? It’s the Dutch Bank Data Retrieval Portal and since 1 January 2020 all Dutch banks have been obliged to connect to it. Well, not all of them: according to Article 32(a) of the Fifth Money Laundering Directive, it’s required if you offer bank accounts with IBANs, or safe-deposit boxes. And the purpose is to allow access to this information to those investigating financial crime – such as police, public prosecutors, FIUs and tax authorities. I, of course, think it’s an excellent idea – but then you know how Pollyanna-ish I am about transparency and information-sharing.
Once Brexit raised its unbelievably ugly head, I knew that the UK’s commitment to MLD5 was shaky. Yes, we were still in the EU when the implementation deadline passed, but what could they do about it if we didn’t comply? Yah boo sucks to them, we said. There was plenty of lip-service paid to the idea of maintaining standards, but we all know which side our plain, boring, sliced white bread is buttered. And according to an article on the Law Society website – I cannot find any announcement on the Home Office website (please let me know if you can and I’ll share the link) – the UK’s plans to build such a portal have been quietly shelved over the summer. Despite the fact that such a portal would undoubtedly help with AML/CFT endeavours, apparently the Home Office has done a cost/benefit analysis and decided that “the possible efficiency benefits of a portal were uncertain; a register might not deliver the level of change needed; [and] building a portal would be costly to the public and private sectors”. Oddly, the Law Society comments that “we welcome the cancellation, as it avoids imposing further regulatory burdens on firms and adding to compliance costs” – as the portal would be fed by banks, not law firms, I assume they mean that it would be a hassle for law firms to have to respond to queries thrown up by interrogation of the portal.
And so it begins, the dismantling of the AML/CFT safeguards that we have spent decades slowly, painfully, gradually building. I can hardly bear to watch. I may return to my sick-bed and afternoon re-runs of “Hart to Hart”.