Letter: Dirty money

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The Independent Culture
Sir: While the Law Society takes the problem of money laundering very seriously, the reality is far less dramatic and more complex than the picture painted in your front-page story, "City law firms investigated over drug cartel money laundering", (23 November).

Importantly, my information is that the solicitors being investigated are not working in the larger and most well-known City law firms.

Money launderers do not act like supporting characters in a Hollywood gangster movie. A money launderer will, in most cases, appear to be a legitimate businessman who wants to conduct an unremarkable business transaction. They do not appear with suitcases full of used pounds 10 notes. The bulk of money laundering is carried out through banks and financial institutions. However, in a small proportion of cases, solicitors and other professionals will be targeted by these criminals.

The challenge for solicitors is how to spot a suspect transaction. Also, solicitors face the difficult choice of when they should breach the duty of client confidentiality and report a case of suspected money laundering to the police. They can only do so in cases of real suspicion.

The Law Society, City firms and the profession as a whole will continue in their efforts to eradicate money laundering. We will also continue to help the National Criminal Intelligence Service in its work in this difficult area of law enforcement.

MICHAEL MATHEWS

Law Society President

London WC2

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