13 Mar 2017

New money-laundering bill would cover lawyers, accountants

8:32 pm on 13 March 2017

Lawyers, accountants and real estate agents will now be covered by anti-money laundering legislation, if a government bill is passed.

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Photo: 123rf

The new legislation is intended to make it harder for criminals to profit from and fund illegal acitivities.

Justice Minister Amy Adams introduced the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Amendment Bill to Parliament today.

"Money laundering allows criminals to fund their lifestyle and it fuels re-investment in criminal ventures," she said.

"Extending the law will improve our ability to prevent, detect and prosecute many types of criminal activity and help protect New Zealand's reputation as a good place to do business."

The bill extends the current law to lawyers, conveyancers, accountants, real estate agents, and sports and racing betting.

Businesses that dealt in certain high value goods, including motor vehicles, jewellery and art, would also have obligations under the Act when they accepted or made large cash transactions, Ms Adams said.

Last year there were calls to fast-track the legislation after the release of the Panama Papers.

The government has brought forward its introduction but wanted to give those affected time to prepare for the changes.

The compliance costs for businesses were now estimated to be between $800 million and $1.1 billion, compared with the initial figure of $1.8 billion, Ms Adams said.

"Over the past several months, we have worked with affected sectors to better understand how the changes will impact their businesses and refined options to help them meet their obligations."

Businesses would have a period of time to prepare for the changes, with the government providing guidance and information to help them understand, prepare for and comply with the law.