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HMRC internal manual

Money Laundering Regulations: Compliance

Compliance checks not involving visits: Office based interventions continued

For a telephone intervention to be successful officers must know what they want to ask and why and should remember the purpose of the intervention is to gather the facts and test compliance. Officers should use the telephone script and questionnaire to help them. Irrespective of the reason for the intervention the process should be the same. Officers should also be prepared for any potential questions or challenges they may encounter based on the risks that have been identified.

Once an officer has obtained information on the telephone regarding the business’s risk based policies and procedures they should check the information recorded to establish whether the appropriate questions have been asked and most importantly whether the responses are recorded accurately. This is extremely important because these may be needed as evidence at a Tribunal.

The purpose of the questionnaire is to help officers obtain as much information as possible on first contact and within the time available. It may be necessary to follow up the first contact with a second telephone call because the business is not in a position to immediately answer all the questions or that they have not got enough information to assess risk.  It is good practice to have a diary ready so that officers can agree a mutually convenient time for the follow up call.

In addition to planning the Intervention there are several telephone interviewing techniques which will assist officers, these include:

  • adopting a more conversational approach allowing questions to flow more naturally, do not necessarily adhere to the order of questions you plan to ask.
  • phrase questions in such a way that the business will have to give more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer (for example, you should ask ‘When did you stop trading”? rather than ‘Are you still trading”?
  • make sure that you cover all items on the questionnaire.
  • listen carefully to what the business has to say
  • avoid being distracted by planning your next question; you may miss a vital point
  • do not simply accept the first answer you are given. Ask yourself whether it is consistent with previous answers, other information that you hold.

Officers may be able to obtain sufficient evidence to issue a penalty during a telephone intervention where the breach is less complex.  For example, an admission that staff are not trained in money laundering and terrorist financing awareness.  It is important that notes are made at the time of the call.  The notes may be used as evidence at Tribunal.

If there is enough evidence to indicate that there are more complex breaches, such as the business has not put in place adequate anti money laundering systems or processes, then it may be necessary to look at more records and a more detailed type of intervention should be considered to identify the full extent of any non-compliance, explain any areas of concern and agree any action that the business needs to take.

Officers should remember that risk assessment should precede and inform all aspects of their supervision, including

  • interventions
  • data collection and other information requirements
  • advice and support
  • enforcement and sanctions