If you’re running a business and it falls within the scope of the 6th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (6AMLD) regulations then it’s important to make sure you stay compliant with them to avoid any problems down the line.
The EU and UK are very strict when it comes to 6AMLD compliance, and could potentially enforce quite serious financial and criminal penalties if you are caught out. So, it’s critical that you take the necessary steps to avoid these consequences.
In this brief introduction to the 6th money laundering directive, we will tell you everything you need to know about the new regulations so that you don’t get taken by surprise.
What is 6AMLD?
The 6th AML directive is a legal framework that was inserted into law across the European Union on 3rd December 2020.
It was brought in to build upon laws that are already in place to prevent Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT).
Although the EU came up with the idea for 6AMLD, it isn’t restricted to the European Union. The law changes also apply to European Economic Area (EEA) countries such as Iceland and Norway, and to any business that finds itself operating inside of the EU/EEA — even if those businesses are headquartered outside of those areas.
Is the 6th money laundering directive law in the UK?
Yes and no. The United Kingdom was originally a member of the EU when its member states agreed to implement 6AMLD back in 2018. But it has since left the European Union and so is technically not bound to the new regulations.
But what you’ll find is that the UK Government has passed its own AML/CFT regulations which are very similar to the 6th AML directives. In fact, they are almost identical in most instances.
The UK has always had robust AML/CFT regulations, even before the European Union introduced its own, and some would say the UK’s laws go even further.
It’s important to remember that if your business is regulated or operates in Europe — even if it isn’t based in the EU or EEA — then you will have to make sure that it is compliant with the EU’s 6AMLD.
6AMLD Key Changes
The 6th anti-money laundering directive has introduced new measures on top of the old 5AMLD regulations. It wasn’t long after the introduction of 5AMLD that the European authorities began to realise there were big gaps and weaknesses in the framework. So, before the ink had barely dried, preparation for the updated directives began.
To cover all bases, the key 6AMLD changes to the law have focused on making it easier for the authorities to detect and investigate financial crime. Here are the major changes in a little more detail:
A greater crackdown on money laundering
To properly investigate and prosecute criminal activity across borders, and building on a greater awareness of how criminals have exploited international boundaries in the past, the 6th money laundering directive has put a big emphasis on increased cooperation between member states.
To do this, 6AMLD has expanded the definition of money laundering, bringing in a concept known as “dual criminality” to make it easier for the authorities to share information and to cooperate more efficiently when tackling a problem. The authorities can now also prosecute a criminal in any member state, even if the crime began or took place elsewhere.
There are six dual criminality predicate offences, including:
- Simply being a member of a criminal organisation that intends to commit money laundering
- Human trafficking (including migrant smuggling)
- Sexual exploitation and child abuse
- Trafficking of illegal drugs and substances
- The abuse of a powerful position for private gain (corruption)
A unified definition of predicate offences
Another big change is that the 6AMLD has introduced a single definition of predicate offences across all of the EU’s member states.
The hope of this standardisation is that it will make it easier to identify and criminalise offences across the EU and EEA. And also to close some of the loopholes of interpretation between the different member states, making it easier to prosecute.
Because the 6AMLD largely builds upon and has updated the pre-existing offences already recognised by earlier AMLDs, the majority of the offences identified will not come as a surprise to people in the UK.
But two new predicate offences have been introduced, related to cyber and environmental crimes. The introduction of these two new offences, in particular, shows that there is a greater awareness of these crimes, and should be welcomed as a significant proactive step in the fight against them.
Liability extends to companies and business partnerships
Previously, only individual people could be punished for money laundering. But now that definition has been expanded to include entire corporations and even partnerships between business entities. In other words, the regulators will be looking increasingly at companies to make sure they are complying with the new rules.
Expanded regulatory scope
Another big change is that the 6AMLD will now consider “aiding and abetting” to be money laundering, and that this will carry the same legal repercussions. Under 5AMLD, only those primarily involved and directly benefiting were held responsible for the crime. Now, with the new standards, even so-called “enablers” will be punished.
This extended definition also covers anyone found encouraging money laundering or making an attempt to launder money. So, to keep on the right side of the new changes, you should take steps to make sure that your business’s compliance processes are set up to identify and prevent the aiding and abetting of money laundering as part of your AML response.
Greater punishments for criminals
Criminals will now serve longer prison sentences, pay larger fines and suffer professional disqualifications and disbarment. If your business has committed an offence it may be forced to cease operations, prohibited from conducting future business or have its assets frozen or even confiscated.
What 6AMLD means for your business?
You’ll have to make sure your business complies with these extra new requirements to avoid the risk of these penalties.
You’ll need to think about:
- An enterprise-wide risk assessment (that is appropriate to the scope, size and risk of your business).
- Training your employees so that they are aware of the changes to corporate liability, along with introducing the relevant policies and procedures.
- How quickly you’ll be able to sufficiently display that you’ve implemented the 6th AML directives — as regulators will be looking out for this.
- You might also need to appoint a Money Laundering Reporting Officer to manage the regulations on an ongoing basis.
The types of businesses most affected by 6AMLD
If your business provides a service that could potentially be used for money laundering, then you’re likely to feel the greatest impact from 6AMLD.
- Any business that deals with virtual currencies, such as cryptocurrency exchanges and e-wallet providers
- Payment processing companies
- Real-estate agents
- Businesses that trade in high-value goods (such as jewellery, cars and antiques)
- Any organisation that could potentially be used as a cover for money laundering, including even charities, foundations and non-profit organisations
What the directives mean for anonymous prepaid cards
The regulations for anonymous prepaid cards remain much the same with 6AMLD as they did with 5AMLD — you can read more about this in our article on 5AMLD.
The way in which prepaid cards are regulated primarily involves spending limits and the scope of anonymity. Prior to 5AMLD, an anonymous prepaid card allowed for goods to be bought, well, anonymously. But with the introduction of 5AMLD and 6AMLD, the identity of a customer is now a requirement if a transaction exceeds 50 euros. This will apply to all transactions after 36 months, regardless of value.
In addition to this, the value that a prepaid card is allowed to hold has also been lowered from 250 euros (214GBP) to 150 euros (128GBP) and it cannot be funded electronically with anonymous money, nor can it be reloaded.
What the directives mean for cryptocurrency exchanges
The UK government has already confirmed that it will move ahead with a new ‘travel rule’ for custodial wallet and crypto-asset exchange providers. This will require such providers to collect information on the beneficiary who has a crypto wallet that isn’t hosted on a crypto platform and is thought to be considered a risk, and to identify any suspicious behavioural changes. The European Union is expected to follow sometime within 2023.
In short, 6AMLD builds on what 5AMLD set out to do. The revised directives have expanded the scope of what is considered money laundering, and have made the law easier to enforce.
These changes will impact a lot of businesses operating inside or with the EU, EEA and the UK. If you’re affected, then it’s your responsibility to take the necessary steps to ensure you are compliant right away, on top of additional regulatory requirements, like being 3D Secure. You definitely don’t want the reputational risk your firm may face for non-compliance.
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