SRA Imposes Fines Exceeding £55,000 for Anti-Money Laundering Breaches

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has recently taken robust action against firms and individual lawyers found in breach of anti-money laundering (AML) requirements, resulting in fines totalling more than £55,000.

The largest fine, amounting to £23,035, was imposed on Bristol-based firm Batchelor Sharp for failing to conduct client or matter risk assessments on its files prior to March 2023. The SRA highlighted the persistence of this breach and its potential to undermine public confidence in the legal profession. Despite falling within the 1.6% to 3.2% fining band, Batchelor Sharp’s proactive steps to rectify compliance deficiencies mitigated the severity of the penalty.

North-West London firm Burrows faced a fine of nearly £13,000 for lacking a firm-wide risk assessment and fully compliant policies, controls, and procedures (PCPs) between June 2017 and March 2022. Additionally, the firm failed to carry out client and matter risk assessments on five sampled files, heightening the risk associated with its operations.

Kolawole Babatunde Idowu, a partner at South-East London firm Fitzpatrick & Co, incurred a penalty of £2,376 for breaches related to property transactions and accounts rules compliance. Despite facing challenges with HM Land Registry registrations, Mr. Idowu’s failure to ensure proper due diligence and compliance with regulations warranted regulatory action.

Siamak Goudarzi of Southampton firm Leonard Solicitors was fined £18,750 for various AML breaches, including allowing the firm’s client account to be used as a banking facility, inadequate due diligence on client funds, and failure to maintain compliant risk assessments and procedures.

In addition to the fines, each firm and individual lawyer is required to pay the SRA costs of £1,350, further emphasizing the regulatory consequences of AML non-compliance.

An SRA notice said:

“The SRA remains steadfast in its commitment to upholding the highest standards of integrity and professionalism within the legal profession. These enforcement actions underscore the importance of robust AML measures in safeguarding against financial crime and preserving public trust.”

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