Making a SAR and obtaining a defence or consent—law firms

The following Practice Compliance practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Making a SAR and obtaining a defence or consent—law firms
  • NCA statistics
  • The defence (consent) regime
  • Asking further questions
  • Concern
  • Suspicion
  • Submitting a SAR
  • Subject of the SAR
  • Criminal property
  • Details of the transaction
  • More...

Making a SAR and obtaining a defence or consent—law firms

This Practice Note reflects draft Legal Sector Affinity Group (LSAG) AML guidance, published on 20 January 2021. It awaits HM Treasury approval. Note that any content may be amended before the final version is published with the Treasury’s approval.

The Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA 2002) and the Terrorism Act 2000 (TA 2000) impose obligations to report knowledge or suspicions of money laundering and terrorist financing to the National Crime Agency (NCA) by way of a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR). There are heavy criminal sanctions for failing to do so.

A SAR can be:

  1. an internal SAR to the firm's nominated officer, or

  2. an external SAR to the NCA

This Practice Note contains practical guidance for the nominated officer on making an external SAR to the NCA and securing a defence for carrying out a prohibited act (ie continue with the matter that you know or suspect involves money laundering or terrorist financing). See also Practice Note: Reporting suspicions of money laundering—law firms for more detailed information on the law relating to the SARs regime.

NCA statistics

The NCA's SARs Annual Report 2020 was published in November 2019 and covers the period April 2019 to March 2020. It reveals a number of key findings:

  1. the NCA received 573,085 SARs

  2. SARs received from independent legal professionals totalled 3,006, making up just

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