Money laundering regulations are proving to be as complicated as the shadowy financial transactions they are trying to prevent. A case in point: The Fourth European Union Anti-Money Laundering Directive (4AMLD), approved in 2015 and scheduled to go into effect June 26, 2017, has already been supplanted by 5AMLD — amended text addressing threats that have emerged in the period between the adoption and implementation of 4AMLD.
As it stands, the agreed 4AMLD text and effective date will remain, but financial institutions should anticipate additional regulatory changes from 5AMLD shortly thereafter. We issued a flash report last week, which outlines the proposed changes in 5AMLD and provides recommendations on how financial institutions can prepare for them.
There are five main requirements proposed by the 5AMLD that affect financial institutions:
- Virtual currencies. The 5th AMLD adds virtual currencies, anonymous prepaid cards and other digital currencies, such as bitcoin exchanges and wallet services, to the list of activities carrying the risk of terror financing. The 5AMLD better defines “virtual currencies” under EU law, and includes the requirement to adopt this legal definition in AML legislation across all member states. Under the proposed amendment, providers engaged in exchange services between virtual and hard currencies and custodian wallet providers will be required to apply customer due diligence (CDD), similar to what is already required for hard currency transactions.
- Identifying prepaid card owners. EU member states will be required to identify the customer in the case of remote payment transactions where the amount paid exceeds EUR50. After 36 months from the date 5AMLD enters into force (a date still to be determined), identification requirements will apply to all remote payment transactions. Certain exemptions may apply for “low-risk” customers where defined risk-mitigating factors are met.
- Beneficial ownership registers. Member states must comply with register requirements within 18 months of the 5AMLD implementation date. Registers must be interconnected to the European Central Platform within 18 months of implementation in accordance with the technical specifications and procedures set out in Article 4C of Directive 2009/101/EC. Technical requirements, including access controls and operational challenges, should also be considered and tested in preparation for compliance with 5AMLD requirements.
- Enhanced information sharing. 5AMLD requires member states to establish automated data clearinghouses at the national level to aggregate individual account ownership across multiple institutions. Data must be searchable by account holder, beneficial owner, IBAN number, and open and close dates, as applicable. Powers of EU Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) will be enhanced through 5AMLD, as they will be permitted to request information from any obliged entity and would no longer be limited to identification of a predicate offense or suspicious activity report prior to an information request. The proposed amendments make information more easily accessible and align with international best practices.
- High-risk third countries. Member states will be required to apply specific enhanced due diligence (EDD) measures for transactions involving entities on a list of “high-risk third countries” defined by the European Commission. This is intended to reduce regulatory differences between member states, where some EU countries offer less-stringent controls in exchange for higher fees, allowing terrorists to exploit the weaknesses in these measures.
5AMLD has proved to be more controversial than 4AMLD, particularly with prepaid cards and virtual currencies being more tightly regulated and uncertainty regarding the implementation of centralized registers. Nevertheless, there is an ambitious timeframe for its adoption. With 4AMLD expected to become effective June 26, 2017 it is reasonable to assume that 5AMLD will become effective shortly thereafter, if not concurrently, and obliged entities should be ready to implement the proposed 5AMLD requirements.
Download the flash report for additional details and recommendations.