ICAEW (the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) and the UAE’s Accountants & Auditors Association (AAA) have called for chartered accountants to exercise greater professional scepticism in the fight against money laundering.
As the UAE seeks to strengthen the integrity of its financial system, the two organisations, in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Economy, co-hosted a virtual panel discussion on 7th November to guide organisations on their anti-money laundering compliance obligations. The panellists included:
- Muhammad Shafi Poyilan, Senior Specialist, AML Supervision & Control at the UAE Ministry of Economy.
- Shama Kothari, Senior Specialist, AML Supervision & Control at the UAE Ministry of Economy.
- Duncan Wiggetts, Chief Officer, Professional Standards ICAEW
- Michelle Giddings, Head of AML, ICAEW
- Mark Billington, ICAEW Managing Director, International
According to the expert panel, the UAE’s position as an international trade and finance hub has made it more vulnerable to illicit financial crime. Overcoming this threat requires the public and private sectors to remain vigilant in reporting any suspicious business activity. The Ministry of Economy urged professional accountants and auditors to uphold their responsibility to act in the public interest and be the first line of defence in identifying and responding to financial crime by putting in place comprehensive risk assessments.
During the event, ICAEW’s award-winning training film ‘All Too Familiar’ – produced in collaboration with the UK’s HM Revenue and Customs – was screened in the Middle East for the first time. The film explores the degree of trust still placed in personal and professional relationships and whether trust is enough in the fight against economic crime. It aimes to challenge mindsets and provoke discussions on the need for greater professional scepticism when faced with potential money laundering risks.
The speakers agreed that though trust plays a factor in judgement, professional scepticism and due diligence are crucial in the everlasting fight against money laundering. In cases where inconsistencies appear between financial statements and the visible norms of the business, further inspection is not only recommended but is now a legal requirement in the UAE, requiring registered accountants to submit a suspicious activity report (SAR) to the UAE Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). This will ensure that firms meet their AML legal obligations and avoid fines and reputational losses.
Safeya AlSafi, Director of AML Department, at UAE Ministry of Economy, said: “The UAE maintains a strong AML system in an effort to protect against the possibility of money laundering. We encourage our supervised firms and the general public to report actual or potential breaches of the Anti-Money Laundering Regulations and will continue to raise awareness of the importance of adhering to financial crime legislation.”
Mark Billington, ICAEW Managing Director, International, said: “As the global business landscape grows more connected and complex, money laundering is taking increasingly diverse forms. We are encouraged to see the numerous affirmative steps the UAE is taking to combat money laundering, but it remains a significant risk to organisations in the country.
“Criminals are attracted to the accountancy sector to give legitimacy to businesses that are fronts for money laundering. As chartered accountants, we are responsible for acting in the public interest, and we must ensure the integrity of the accountancy sector is not compromised by enabling business activity that facilitates money laundering.”
The event was attended by 155 auditors, accountants, ICAEW members, and senior business representatives from major global and regional financial organisations.
Ramzi Alabras, Mojo PR
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