2020 was a crazy year, as large parts of daily life came to a halt. Criminals, unfortunately, never stop, and during the biggest pandemic of our lifetime, criminal networks figured out new and innovative ways to cash in on the misfortune of others, especially online. That said, some pretty great things also happened during 2020, and we thought we’d start off the new year with a look back at our favourite news from the world of anti-money laundering from the past 12 months.

Good guidance makes all the difference

We’ll remember 2020 as the year the FCA Financial crime guide arrived, or the year when FinCEN finally made the facts around Section 314(b) Information Sharing clearer. Both of these documents are designed for active crime fighters so they’re already being used to make AML more effective. The FCA Financial Crime Guide is worth reading in any case - it includes good practice vs bad practice examples, it lists critical points for appropriate and meaningful reporting, and it delves deeply into the differences and similarities between money laundering and terrorist financing - just listen to our favourite podcast hosts Graham and Ray swoon over this resource in the January 2020 episode of The Dark Money Files.

Legislative highlights

Unless you live under a rock (or don’t work in compliance) you’ve probably heard your fair share about the FinCEN files leak in 2020 (if you haven’t, consider updating your news sources and take a look at the ICIJ homepage), so we won’t talk much about that now. But it was definitely a pivotal news story that sent ripples through all FinCrime reporting institutions. The ensuing (or coinciding) legislative changes will be something 2020 will be remembered for: from the bill to end anonymous companies in the US, the reforms of the UK Companies house, the new US AML Act, or the AML/CTF action plan developed by the EC. These changes will make a huge difference in how AML (and its predicate) crimes are treated and investigated.

When criminals step up, so do the good guys

The increase in particular types of crime during 2020 was so significant, that FATF even released an overview of covid-related predicate crime examples. This kind of injustice has, however, not gone unnoticed and there have been some great initiatives to help counter these scams. The one we’d like to highlight here is BogusBuster - a tool aimed at helping consumers avoid becoming victims of online scammers. This portal guides users through everything scam-related, empowering them to shop safely online – such as spotting a fake product, instant authentication for a website or online store, or learning about the latest scam threats. BogusBuster is a free service and has been backed by Innovate UK.

Cooperation is key

2020 was the year for innovative, purpose-driven, cooperation between the private and public sector with the aim to fight financial crime. For instance, in Sweden, the largest banks and police have set up the SAMLIT Project that aims to streamline current reporting processes and share information on suspicious transaction patterns. In Lithuania, the government gave a green light to the establishment of an AML Centre of Excellence that will help ensure high levels of qualification for AML specialists, set up a dedicated information exchange platform and carry out research to improve the current AML/CTF framework. It was a pretty good year for us at Salv as well, as we launched our AML Bridge cooperation project with the 4 largest banks in Estonia. Our project aims to create a safe and efficient network for information sharing between financial institutions.

These news stories made us happy in 2020. Of course, there’s plenty more to be done. So let’s do it - let’s make 2021 the year we make a difference in fighting financial crime. Let’s make it a year to look back at with the feeling that we truly gave our best. Happy new year, everyone!