Anti-Money Laundering (AML) in Ireland

AML Country Guide / Anti-Money Laundering (AML) in Ireland

Financial crimes, especially money laundering and terrorist financing, are important problems all over the world. Weaknesses in financial systems increase the potential financial crime risks and money laundering techniques day by day. One of the countries facing money laundering risks is Ireland. Ireland aims to eliminate potential financial crime risks with its effective Anti-money Laundering (AML) laws and procedures.

AML Overview

Ireland has progressively strengthened its AML regulations through a series of legislative milestones. Beginning with the enactment of the Criminal Justice Act of 1994, the country embarked on its commitment to combating financial crime. Subsequent amendments further fortified the legal framework by granting law enforcement agencies expanded authority and tools for investigating and prosecuting money laundering activities.

A significant turning point in Ireland's AML history was marked by the Criminal Justice Act in 2010. This comprehensive legislation aligned with international AML standards and the European Union's Third Anti-Money Laundering Directive (3AMLD). It mandated customer due diligence (CDD), reporting of suspicious transactions, and more robust record-keeping practices. Subsequent amendments have continued to adapt Ireland's AML framework to evolving international standards, with a strong focus on transparency of beneficial ownership, virtual asset service providers (VASPs), and more severe penalties for non-compliance.

Understanding the importance of international collaboration with organizations such as the EU and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Ireland continues to update its legislation to better adapt to these organizations’ frameworks, the EU Anti-Money Laundering Directives first and foremost.

The FATF took its latest Follow-up Mutual Evaluation Report on Ireland in 2022. With this report, Ireland was deemed compliant with 17 and largely compliant with 17 of the FATF 40 Recommendations.

7 Elements of an Effective AML/CFT Compliance Programme

The Financial Authorities

In Ireland, the financial landscape is overseen and regulated primarily by the Central Bank of Ireland and the Department of Finance. They both play a pivotal role in ensuring its stability and integrity. Financial institutions, including banks and payment service providers, are mandated to institute robust AML measures such as CDD, transaction monitoring, and suspicious activity reporting. Ireland's financial authorities collaborate closely with law enforcement agencies, jointly combatting money laundering and terrorist financing to uphold the financial system's integrity.

Money Laundering Penalties

Ireland's regulatory framework concerning money laundering is characterized by its stringent measures. Both individuals and businesses that face money laundering convictions would confront substantial legal ramifications. These may encompass substantial financial penalties, imprisonment sentences, or a combination, depending on the severity of the offense. Individuals could potentially serve prison sentences of up to 14 years, while businesses may face significant financial liabilities. Additionally, assets implicated in money laundering activities are subject to confiscation.

Customer Due Diligence Measures

Sections 33 to 39 of the Criminal Justice Act of 2010 describe the CDD measures that companies must implement before starting a business relationship with customers. CDD procedures are vital to AML compliance in Ireland. According to Section 33, firms can open the client’s account before the CDD is complete, but the client cannot take action until the CDD is complete.

Some of the CDD procedures are sanctionsPolitically Exposed Persons (PEPs), and adverse media screening. Countries impose sanctions on individuals they want to restrict, and it is forbidden for companies to establish business relationships with people who have been sanctioned. Therefore, companies must control their customers by applying sanction screening in the customer onboarding processes.

PEPs have more opportunities for money laundering, corruption, and bribery crimes than normal citizens, according to AML regulators. For this reason, PEPs are risky customers for financial institutions. Of course, PEPs are not prohibited from opening an account in a financial institution. However, due to the high risks posed by PEPs, companies need to detect PEPs in their customer account opening processes and apply a special AML program for them.

Adverse media is also known as “negative media”. Risks for financial institutions do not come only from sanctions and PEPs. Every year, a huge number of news from media sources about money laundering, terrorist financing, corruption, bribery, human trafficking, and arms smuggling are published. Companies thus protect their reputation and prevent potential risks and threats.

A Call for Innovation on AML

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