Attorney-General Robert McClelland flagged changes to money laundering and terrorism legislation which could impact on lawyers' compliance requirements in a speech at an international conference on Wednesday 1 April.
Under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006, businesses in the financial and gambling sector are currently required to report suspicious matters and maintain records for seven years.
McClelland told the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Conference that the Government was considering extending the act to cover services provided by lawyers as well as accountants, real estate agents and jewellers.
The Law Council of Australia has said compliance by legal practitioners could include initial client identification and ongoing client due diligence, record keeping, auditing, employee training programs, nomination of an anti-money laundering compliance officer and reporting suspicious matters.
While the current legislation does not impact on legal professional privilege, client confidentiality has a wider application and may mean practitioners will be compelled to make reports from information provided by clients, said the council in its report.
The Law Council advises practitioners to develop a good understanding of when information has been provided in privileged circumstances. In other jurisdictions, failure to disclose anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing suspicions has led to the imprisonment of legal practitioners.
- Sarah Sharples