The Government has recently made changes to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act 2009 (the Act) to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing within various businesses and professions,including lawyers.

The Act aims to enhance the reputation of New Zealand businesses and maintain the view that New Zealand is a safe place to run a business. The Act imposes preventative measures to ensure businesses are not used by criminals to hold and move funds anonymously.

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) regulates and monitors compliance with the Act and is responsible for reporting any breaches.

Compliance with the Act involves lawyers completing customer due diligence (CDD) on clients before acting for them, even when they are long-standing clients.

As a minimum, lawyers are required to obtain and hold evidence of full legal name,date of birth, and address for individuals, trusts, companies and partnerships.

In some circumstances further information may be required. For example,where lawyers receive funds in overseas accounts, and in property transactions,as the DIA has identified overseas money being laundered in this manner.

While the Act has imposed further compliance requirements and administrative work on lawyers and other professionals, its aim is to reduce money laundering and prompt people to question ‘red flags’ to ensure that New Zealand is a desirable and safe place to do business