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South-West Law Firm Ashfords Fined £101,357 by SRA Over Money Laundering Oversights in Property Transactions

Money LaunderingSouth-West Law Firm Ashfords Fined £101,357 by SRA Over Money Laundering Oversights in Property Transactions

A prominent law firm in the South-West has been fined £101,357 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for overlooking money laundering concerns in three property transactions, potentially involving a sanctioned entity.

The SRA found that both the fee-earner and compliance team at Ashfords, based in Exeter, failed to adequately address or document red flags, revealing deficiencies in client onboarding and monitoring processes. This led to significant sums entering the firm’s client account without proper source of funds verification.

Ashfords accepted the fine in a regulatory settlement, the second in three years. The firm reported itself to the SRA regarding three conveyancing transactions between October 2017 and March 2018, where it acted for purchasers instructed by a third-party property investment company.

The SRA highlighted concerns in two transactions involving conflicting information about the ultimate beneficial owner and unclear source of funds. The compliance team’s purported follow-up lacked a written record, and a retrospective search identified a potential link to a sanctioned entity. The third transaction, involving a UK-registered charity, lacked sufficient funds documentation, with the balance to be loaned by a trustee.

Ashfords admitted multiple breaches of the 2017 Money Laundering Regulations, citing established procedures not followed. The SRA deemed a fine appropriate, considering potential harm, but noted no lasting harm and low risk of repetition. The firm’s proactive measures, including changes to systems and ongoing training, factored into the decision. The initial fine, nearly £169,000, was reduced by 40% for mitigation. Ashfords also agreed to pay SRA costs of £1,350.

By FCCT Editorial Team

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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