The UK’s solicitors’ watchdog has fined Woking law firm Buglear Bate & Co £2,000 over claims it failed to put in place policies to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) fined the firm £2,000 and ordered it to pay £600 in costs after it admitted failing to comply with money laundering legislation.
The regulator said the law firm failed to comply with regulations requiring it to have anti-money laundering (AML) policies in place.
The watchdog said Buglear Bate’s conduct was “reckless” as it noted the firm had failed to properly scrutinise a £75,000 payment into its client account.
In explaining the where the funds had come from, the law firm said £25,000 worth of the money was “rentals” and that £50,000 was from a “loan” – without offering any further details.
The SRA gave the law firm a “basic” £2,000 penalty as the watchdog said the fine would create a “credible deterrent to others” against failing to comply with AML rules.
The fine against Buglear Bate comes after research by City A.M. showed the SRA increased the number of fines it handed to law firms six-fold over the five-year period from 2017/18 to 2021/22.
The major uptick in both the number and value of fines come as the SRA has taken a more pro-active stance towards tackling money laundering after introducing new rules in 2017.