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Preventing money laundering and the financing of terrorism

Applying for a defence

8.45 Where SAR Online is used and a defence (appropriate consent) is needed, this can be done by ticking the 'consent requested' box. Alternatively, requests can be faxed to the NCA UKFIU Consent Desk (see the NCA website www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk). You are advised to make it explicit in your report that you are seeking a defence (consent) from the NCA.

8.46 Requests must be for a specified activity (or specified series of activities) and should not be open-ended, such as seeking a defence (consent) to 'handle all business dealings or transactions' relating to the subject of the request or the relevant account.

8.47 The SAR requesting a defence (appropriate consent) should set out concisely:

  • who is involved
  • what and where the criminal property is and its value
  • when and how the circumstances arose and are planned to happen
  • why you have knowledge or are suspicious.

8.48 The UKFIU Consent Desk applies the criteria set out in the Home Office Circular 029/2008 Proceeds of Crime Act 2002: Obligations to report money laundering – the consent regime (http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130125102358/http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/corporate-publications-strategy/home-office-circulars/circulars-2008/) to each request for a defence (consent), carry out the necessary internal enquiries, and will contact the appropriate law enforcement agency, where necessary, for a consent recommendation. Once the NCA’s decision has been reached, the disclosing nominated officer will be informed of the decision by telephone, and be given a reference number, which should be recorded. A formal letter from the NCA will follow.

8.49 Home Office Circular 029/2008 contains guidance on the operation of the consent regime in POCA. It was issued to ensure consistency of practice on the part of law enforcement in considering requests for consent under Part 7 of POCA. This was in response to concerns from the financial services industry and other sectors and professions that decisions should be taken in an effective and proportionate way, with due engagement with all participants. The circular was formulated in agreement with key partner agencies and sets out the high-level principles by which the law enforcement agencies should make decisions on consent, and how these principles should be applied.

8.50 Although POCA provides that consent can be granted by a constable (which includes authorised NCA officers) or a customs officer, there is a recognised need to ensure that the practices of all law enforcement agencies are consistent in this area. Therefore, as a result of the circular, the NCA operates as the national centre for all authorised disclosures and also for the issue of decisions concerning the granting or refusal of a defence (consent). To avoid confusion those making requests for a defence (consent) should route requests through the NCA. The decision making process will consist of a collaborative effort between the NCA and the other law enforcement agencies, with the latter providing a recommendation to the NCA. While the final decision will be taken by the NCA, in most cases it is likely to be based largely on the recommendation provided by the interested law enforcement agency.

8.51 All requests for a defence (consent) are dealt with by the NCA on a case-by-case basis. It may take the maximum of seven working days to deal with a defence (consent) request, however, in most cases the NCA is able to respond to requests for a defence (consent) within three days (NCA Annual Report). Nominated officers should take this into account when deciding whether it is practical and reasonable to request a defence (consent) prior to the transaction or activity rather than making a report after the transaction or activity.

8.52 In the event that the NCA does not refuse a request for a defence (consent) within seven working days (the notice period) following the working day after the report is made, the casino operator may continue to transact with the customer. However, if the request for a defence (consent) is refused within that period, the NCA can prevent the transaction or activity for a further 31 calendar days (the moratorium period) from the day the request for a defence (consent) is refused.

8.53 Once a matter has been appropriately reported to the NCA, the decision to proceed or not to proceed with a transaction or arrangement remains with the casino operator. Even if a defence (consent) is obtained from the NCA, the operator is not obliged to proceed with the transaction or arrangement.

8.54 Casino operators should note that a defence (consent) only applies in relation to individual prohibited acts, and cannot provide cover to deal with a particular customer. Any subsequent activity will require separate consideration and, if necessary, separate requests for a defence from the NCA. Where a single money laundering offence consists of a course of conduct, the NCA may give consent for a series of similar transactions over a specified period. In cases where there is a range of different money laundering offences that may be committed, such as acquiring (section 329(1)(a) of POCA) and transferring (section 327(1)(d) of POCA) criminal property, the NCA may give a single consent to that person being concerned in an arrangement to facilitate acquisition and use under section 328(1) of POCA.

8.55 The NCA’s ability to grant a defence (consent) in such circumstances will depend on having sufficient detail about the future course of activity or repeated transactions in order to make an informed decision. This is considered on a case-by-case basis. It is not possible for the NCA to give 'blanket' consent for a reporter to carry out all activity and transactions on a suspicious account, individual or arrangement.

8.56 The NCA cannot give advice to nominated officers and casino operators in relation to the specific circumstances where SARs should be submitted or the terms for requesting a defence (appropriate consent). Comprehensive guidance on requesting a defence is available on the NCA’s website. We draw your attention, in particular, to the following NCA publication: Requesting a defence from the NCA under POCA and TACT.

Next chapter: Suspicious activity reporting requirements for remote casinos