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UK financial sanctions regime

UK financial sanctions regime


The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) advises 1,000 firms on compliance with UK financial sanctions, addressing control gaps

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has recently taken proactive steps to guide law firms in complying with the United Kingdom's financial sanctions regime. With letters sent to over 1,000 firms, the SRA aims to enhance controls and ensure adherence to crucial regulations.

In response to data collected from various firms, the SRA identified a significant number lacking effective controls. The letters dispatched not only include guidance on compliance but also offer assistance in completing firm-wide sanctions risk assessments. To facilitate this process, a template has been provided for firms to utilize, streamlining their efforts in meeting regulatory standards.

One notable inclusion in the guidance is information on client identification and screening. Firms are encouraged to utilize the free online tool provided by the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) for efficient screening processes. The importance of these measures cannot be understated, as the UK financial sanctions regime, operated by OFSI, aligns with the government's objectives in foreign policy and national security.

A breach of UK sanctions is considered a criminal offense, carrying penalties such as fines and imprisonment. Juliet Oliver, SRA Deputy Chief Executive, emphasizes the crucial role law firms play in strengthening the financial sanctions regime. Oliver states, "The sanctions regime applies to all firms that provide legal services, not just those captured by anti-money laundering regulations."

The SRA's initiative was prompted by firms' responses to a survey conducted last year. Many firms admitted to lacking or being unaware of a written-down firm-wide risk assessment or the process for identifying an ultimate beneficial owner. The guidance provided aims to address these issues, assisting firms in remaining compliant with regulations.

Juliet Oliver notes that the ongoing program of on-site sanctions inspections is part of the SRA's strategy to test compliance with the regime. Additionally, a series of proactive desk-based reviews are planned for later this year to assess a sample of firms' controls.

In tandem with the SRA's efforts, the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) has also published guidance on the sanctions legislation. Firms seeking further clarification or assistance can contact the SRA's Professional Ethics Team at 0370 606 2577.

As the legal landscape evolves and global tensions persist, the SRA's guidance becomes an essential resource for law firms navigating the complexities of financial sanctions compliance in the United Kingdom.

Photo by kees torn - MAERSK MC KINNEY MÖLLER