Anti-Money Laundering (AML) is a complex and dynamic area of financial regulation that has undergone significant evolution over time. The proliferation of financial technology and the emergence of new forms of criminal activity have necessitated the periodic revision of AML regulations by global and local regulatory bodies. This ongoing process of review and revision is essential for ensuring the effectiveness of AML measures and for maintaining the integrity of the financial system. The evolution of AML represents a continuous effort by regulatory bodies to stay ahead of financial crime and to ensure that the financial system remains free from illicit activities such as money laundering. This process of adaptation and improvement will likely continue in the future, as new challenges emerge and existing measures become inadequate.
History of AML
The history of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations dates back to July 1989, when the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) was established in Paris. The FATF was founded with the aim of studying and developing measures to counter money laundering and to promote the implementation of international standards for AML. Prior to this, institutions such as banks held limited responsibility for money laundering cases. However, following the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the FATF expanded its mission to combat terrorist financing, leading to a significant enhancement of existing regulations and an increase in the responsibilities of institutions subject to these regulations.
Another important player in the fight against money laundering is the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which regulates and pressures its 189 member states to comply with international standards to prevent terrorist financing.
In the European Union, the first Anti-Money Laundering Directive was introduced in 1990, with the objective of preventing the financial system from being misused for money laundering purposes. Since then, the EU's AML directives have undergone continuous revision to mitigate the risks associated with money laundering and terrorist financing. The sixth Anti-Money Laundering Regulation is currently being prepared, with member states of the EU preparing to comply with this regulation.
In the United States, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has the mandate to protect the country from the misuse of financial crimes, including money laundering and other illegal activities. FinCEN acts as the designated administrator of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), which was established in 1970 and remains one of the most important tools in the fight against money laundering. Over time, the US has developed and modified the BSA to provide various regulatory agencies with effective tools for anti-money laundering.
We asked some AML experts, "How has anti-money laundering changed over time?" Here are some of the answers we got:
"I think numerous scandals and big cases lead to greater transparency and reveal lots of gaps in legislation. The opportunities in the field of AML are also changing swiftly. If we looked back 30 years ago, there was no cryptocurrency, fast payments, and e-wallets, but today a great amount of digital solutions are available to everyone today." Anastasija Slobodenuka, Lawyer, CAMS, PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal Law Firm
"The AML profession has become more complex and demanding. Regulations and requirements are changing dynamically, threats are always on the rise, funds are moving faster, and tracing them is growing to be more difficult. On the other hand, Compliance and AML are actively present in the Board of Directors, and their opinions and recommendations are appropriately perceived." Wael Saikaly, Head of AML/CFT at CreditBank SAL
The Evolution of Money Laundering
Money laundering is a fraudulent process that seeks to legitimize illegal funds. To evade laws and regulations aimed at preventing it, criminals employ various techniques to conceal their illicit proceeds. This practice undermines the integrity of financial systems by impairing the trust in financial institutions. When money launderers channel their proceeds through illegitimate businesses, they pose a direct threat to legitimate business owners by creating unfair competition.
Additionally, the act of money laundering distorts legitimate markets by pumping in illicit funds, thereby distorting prices and affecting the efficiency of the market. This also makes it more challenging for law enforcement agencies to track down criminal activities and confiscate counterfeit funds. In the present day, financial criminals have access to state-of-the-art technology and ample funding, which exacerbates the difficulties faced by financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, and regulators in combating this problem.
Financial criminals are known to utilize sophisticated financial tools to deceive systems and make their dirty money appear legitimate. By accessing programming systems, they can manipulate their identities and carry out illegal transactions with relative ease. This makes it increasingly challenging for financial institutions to safeguard themselves and their clients against the dangers of money laundering.
Combating Money Laundering with Technology
The evolution of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations has resulted in an expansion of the responsibilities of financial institutions. In response to these regulations, financial institutions have stepped up their AML efforts to ensure compliance. As per the regulations, financial institutions must establish and implement an effective AML compliance program, which should be audited by a third party at regular intervals.
To address the evolving nature of money laundering crimes and risks, financial institutions have begun to adopt technology-driven solutions. With automated Know Your Customer (KYC) and Customer Due Diligence (CDD) tools, institutions are better equipped to verify the identities of their customers, including high-risk individuals such as Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs). Moreover, thousands of sanctions and PEP lists must be screened regularly. By using artificial intelligence-powered AML scanning solutions, these screenings can be completed in mere seconds.
In addition to customer identity verification, it is also important to monitor customer transactions in real-time to prevent financial crimes and minimize risks in institutions such as banks where financial transactions occur frequently. This is where Transaction Monitoring comes into play. With Transaction Monitoring solutions, customer transactions can be monitored in real-time, and suspicious transactions can be flagged for review by the compliance team.
Financial institutions must adhere to AML regulations rigorously. The landscape of AML is constantly changing and will continue to evolve as long as financial crimes persist. In this context, financial institutions must leverage technology to combat financial crimes, manage their risks, and comply with regulations. The process of establishing and implementing an AML compliance program and passing audits may seem daunting, but institutions that adopt Sanction Scanner, which provides artificial intelligence-supported AML solutions, can save time and keep up with the changing regulations while minimizing their risks.