From 1 July 2018, the Anti-Money Laundering & Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009 (which is quite a mouthful, but “AML” for short) starts applying to all NZ law firms – and their clients.

The law is not new as it’s been applied to banks and finance companies since 2013.  But it’s new for lawyers. 

Why?

Globally, good governments want to make it harder for criminals to launder money, and are attempting to restrict the flow of money to terrorist organisations.  AML does this.  

But “that’s got nothing to do with me”, you say?

Almost certainly true.  But there are some in our communities who engage in those activities and, like every other piece of law, in order to catch the bad guys the good guys have to put up with some increased scrutiny. 

Why lawyers?

Lawyers are seen as a target for money laundering.  That’s because we transfer properties for you and handle large amounts of your funds.  A criminal could, say, try and put some dirty money into our trust account to buy a house, then a year later sell it, collecting the cash, which would then be cleaned or laundered and so not linked back to their original illegal activity.

We’re not the only ones.  Through 2018 and 2019, we’ll be joined by accountants, real estate agents, sports betting agencies (TAB) and dealers in certain high value items (vehicles, antiques, jewellery, etc).  AML is very far reaching.  

So, what does it all mean for me?

The law says that we have to know all of our clients.  That’s easy, you say.  You’ve been with us for a while – of course we know you!  Not so.  In many ways yes, but AML tells us that we must have proof of your identity when we take instructions from 1 July 2018, such as copies of your ID and documents verifying your address.  If you have a company or trust, we will need more information still.  If you’ve had to open a bank account in the past few years, you’ll know what it’s like having to provide documentation.  The same rules will very shortly apply to us.

So, the next time you come in to see us, or contact us to act for you, our lawyers will need to sight your ID and proof of address.  It’s called CDD – Customer Due Diligence, so if we tell you that we need to conduct CDD, that’s what we’re talking about.

We’ll likely ask for that required information the next time we see you (closer to, and from, 1 July), even if we might already hold some of it.  If you have difficulty producing some of what we ask for, please talk to us.  If, for example, you don’t have a passport or photo ID driver’s licence, there may be other ways we can meet our AML obligations.

We’ll make it all just as easy for you as we can, but we do need your co-operation.  If we’re unable to complete our required CDD, we are by law unable to continue to work with you, and we wouldn’t want that.

For more information on all this exciting AML stuff feel free to contact your usual Corcoran French lawyer, or our AML Compliance Officer AMLCompliance@corcoranfrench.co.nz