Ook in Nederland is het “framen” van de juridische beroepsgroepen, als het gaat om naleving van de witwasbestrijdingsmaatregelen, in volle gang. Een recent artikel in het Advocatenblad is daarvan een voorbeeld. Het verhaal is dan dat juristen te weinig ongebruikelijke transacties (in de zin van de Wwft) zouden melden.
In de op 22 juni 2012 jl. uitgebrachte reactie van Europese advocatenorganisatie CC BE (*) op het rapport van de Europese Commissie van april jl. over de Europese witwasregelgeving, wordt ook aandacht besteed aan dat onderwerp. De CC BE zegt over dit onderwerp het volgende (onderstreping door mij):
The Commission report provides that “The Deloitte study found that levels of reporting of suspicious transactions by some nonfinancial professions (in particular lawyers) are low compared to those of FIs. The issue of under-reporting in some jurisdictions remains a concern, and consideration could be given to ways to improving levels….”.
The CC BE does not accept that there is any evidence to support the assertion that there is a problem of under-reporting by the legal profession. The CCBE respectfully submits that a comparison based on figures relating to banking and other financial institutions or professions is inappropriate and consequently misleading, as the activities of lawyers are fundamentally different. By what yardstick, other than a comparison with financial institutions that are involved in thousands of transactions on a daily basis as opposed to lawyers who are not involved in so many transactions, can the level of reporting by lawyers be measured? What evidence is available at a national level, which clearly demonstrates that lawyers are not making reports in circumstances where they should be doing so? This is based on inappropriate comparisons.
In the absence of empirical evidence, it is impossible to conclude one way or another that current reporting levels by the legal profession are an accurate reflection of the actual state of affairs. Experience would suggest that the provisions of the Directive, as implemented in the Member States, act as deterrents for would-be money launderers to utilise the services of lawyers.
A further point to bear in mind is that the presumption of the Commission as to a lower level of reporting that occurs as compared to the Commission’s expectations may very well be a reflection of the very proper ethical standards taken by lawyers who discourage their clients from entrusting them with instructions that amount to a breach of the Directive. Applying this in a robust fashion, organised criminals and intending money launderers realise that lawyers are unlikely to turn a blind eye if requested to facilitate anything that might support money laundering.
Moreover, the CCBE believes that information lawyers dispose of is generally more accurate than information obtained by other professions. Based on the information available and the high level of professional qualification, lawyers are enabled to high quality reporting so that cases that do not merit to be reported are singled out before filing an STR.
The CC BE notes from discussions with the Commission that the United Kingdom has been singled out as having a high level of reporting. The CCBE wishes to stress that as a consequence of the consent procedures in place in the United Kingdom, together with the “all crimes” approach, the breadth of the provisions in the UK and the number of offences in the UK would otherwise be treated as civil law matters in other jurisdictions. No information is available as to the level of effectiveness of such reports in the prosecution of the more serious crimes generally regarded as money laundering and terrorist financing.
Ik heb al vaker over dit onderwerp geschreven en meen dat de overheden veel te hoge verwachtingen hebben van juristen als het gaat om het waarnemen van ongebruikelijke transacties. Voorts wordt vaak vergeten dat maar een beperkt deel van juristenwerk onder de Wwft valt.
Ook verder is dit een interessante reactie van de CC BE op het rapport van de Commissie.
Aangezien er tot nu toe niet is gebleken dat overheden luisteren naar bezwaren zoals van het CC BE, vrees ik dat de bureaucratisering van de zakelijke dienstverlening wel verder door zal gaan.
(*) Conseil des barreaux européens – Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe