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Compliance, Regulation and Fintech Partnerships

by James Lephew, Compliance Officer & MLRO, Esports Entertainment Group

The world of financial crime has dramatically changed in the past year. Following a global pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and overall global instability, Compliance Officers and Money Laundering Reporting Officers (MLROs) need to consider some of the below major changes that are coming from supervisory agencies and national governments, which include enhanced regulations and guidance, to support anti-money laundering / countering funding of terrorism (AML/CFT) programs in this lucrative environment.

Sanctions Compliance

On the 21st February 2022, The Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), the division within the U.S. Treasury responsible with enforcing economic and trade sanctions against countries and individuals, expanded the prohibition of certain transactions with respect to continued Russian efforts to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, following Executive Order 14065 issued by U.S. President Joseph R. Biden. As such, OFAC sanctions compliance is now front and center stage in the financial crime world. Compliance Officers and MLROs should consider investing, or upgrading, in sanctions screening software and scanning logic to ensure that no transactions are being carried out by your business with any individuals, or companies mentioned on the OFAC sanctions lists. Otherwise, companies could face severe violations, regulatory repercussions, and reputational damage.  

New European-wide AML/CFT regulator

On July 21st, 2021, the European Commission proposed some major changes to AML/CFT legislation, which include the establishment of the new Anti-Money Laundering Authority (AMLA). This authority will have direct supervision powers over illicit finance across the EU member states, and will even be able to impose fines not exceeding 10 percent of annual turnover or 10 million euros, whichever is higher. AMLA is expected to be established in the year 2023 and operational by 2024. A new European-wide rule book based on technical standards and harmonized rules that include more criteria on customer due diligence (CDD), beneficial ownership, and the powers of financial intelligence units (FIUs) should be expected. Additionally, information and data collection on crypto assets will be enhanced as well.

Partnerships with fintechs and payment service providers

Fintech companies and third-party payment processors that specialize in digital payment methods are increasing in demand, while providing alternative opportunities to more conservative, traditional financial institutions, to conduct transactions. These companies are attractive because they specialize in developing innovative technologies that can help companies better manage their financial operations, use multiple digital currencies, and employ specialized software and algorithms to automate transactions. If your company establishes partnerships with these types of firms, be sure to update your company’s business risk assessment (BRA), review your internal controls, and carry out the necessary due diligence procedures in order to ensure they comply with the relevant AML/CFT regulations.

Ultimately, the goal of any AML/CFT program should be to promote the detection and prevention of money laundering, terrorist financing, proliferation of nuclear weapons, and expansion of human trafficking. By considering the above, practitioners will be better prepared to take up the fight against illicit finance during this time of uncertainty.