Money laundering and AML compliance failures ‘plague the UK’

SmartSearch looked at 16,150 AML events across the globe between 2013 and 2023 to determine which are most prominent.

A stone UK pound sign lies on a sandy beach being washed by salty water in AML.

A deep dive into hundreds of ‘anti-money laundering (AML) events’ recorded across the UK during the past 10 years shows money laundering is the most prevalent issue (27.5%), research from SmartSearch reveals.

AML events include recorded crimes or issues relating to money laundering, drug trafficking, financial fraud, AML compliance failures, violations of AML laws, regulatory breaches, reporting failures and international sanctions.

The compliance and software provider looked at more than 16,150 AML events across the globe between 2013 and 2023 to determine which financial crimes and AML compliance issues are most prominent – and in which countries.


Its 2024 Money Laundering and Financial Crime Stats Report found that while just over a quarter of the UK’s crimes and issues pertain to money laundering (27.5%), this was closely followed by AML compliance failures (23.9%) – which beat drug trafficking (19.8%) and financial fraud (13.4%) to the top spot

Martin Cheek, qualified lawyer and Managing Director of SmartSearch
Martin Cheek, Managing Director, SmartSearch

Martin Cheek, qualified lawyer and Managing Director of SmartSearch, says: “The stats highlight the urgent need for regulated businesses to have adequate AML processes and software in place to detect criminal behaviour.

“If not, they risk facing multi-million pound fines, punishments which could include prison time, and enabling criminals to carry out illegal activities, like cleaning dirty cash.”

While just under a quarter of the UK’s AML events relate to compliance failures (23.9%), this doesn’t include reporting failures (2.1%) and violations of laws (1.5%).


Cheek adds: “The notable occurrence of AML compliance failures in the UK, at 23.9%, is pretty shocking. While the figures span a whole decade, which means technological advancements and reforms of laws and regulations will have helped to combat compliance failure in more recent years, this figure is still too high. To add to this, a larger amount of the events were recorded in 2022.

“This backs up the need for much of the work being done right now to tackle this problem across the board. There’s no better time for businesses to take a proactive stance and maintain full control of their compliance obligations, or they risk being left behind in not only failing to meet current standards, but evolving to meet newer requirements.”

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