Cover image

Anti-Money Laundering Checks: Prevent Financial Crimes

Renata Pacheco

Written by

Renata Pacheco

June 8, 2023

Anti-money laundering checks, or AML checks as they’re frequently known, have a critical function in the financial world.

These are precautionary measures carried out by businesses to safeguard against money laundering — a process where illegitimately obtained ‘dirty’ money is made to appear legal.

These checks aim to assess and manage risk by examining the nature of transactions and the clients involved. Anti-money laundering checks thus become a bulwark against financial crime and, by extension, an instrument that fosters a more secure and transparent business environment.

Anti-money laundering regulations stand as the legal framework underpinning AML checks. By detailing obligations, they guide businesses in their vigilance against money laundering.

These regulations encompass various measures, including customer due diligence, record keeping, and reporting suspicious activities, thus ensuring that companies are not exploited for illicit purposes.

A single breach can lead to severe repercussions such as hefty fines, reputational damage, and even imprisonment.

The role of customer due diligence measures in AML compliance

Customer Due Diligence (CDD) measures form the backbone of any comprehensive AML compliance programme. A thorough understanding of your customer’s identity, business activity, and risk profile is essential to carry out these measures effectively.

This begins by obtaining accurate customer information, which aids in verifying customers’ identities, detecting suspicious patterns, and ultimately preventing money laundering.

A reliable CDD process can mitigate risks and ensure AML checks are comprehensive and practical. For example, an essential aspect of customer due diligence measures is understanding the intended nature of the business relationship.

By gaining a complete insight into a customer’s anticipated transactions, businesses can more effectively spot and investigate any unusual activity.

AML checks aren’t just necessary when establishing new business relationships. They’re equally important in monitoring existing customers, especially in high-risk scenarios or when circumstances change significantly in a business relationship.

This constant vigilance helps maintain the integrity of the business and reduces the risk of involvement in potential criminal activities.


Key steps in conducting anti-money laundering checks

Conducting an anti-money laundering check doesn’t have to be complex but necessitates a systematic approach.

The first step typically involves performing a risk assessment, assessing the level of risk associated with the client or transaction. This process helps determine the extent of due diligence required.

A check with credit reference agencies is commonly conducted following the risk assessment. These agencies can provide valuable information about a customer’s financial history, which is essential in spotting red flags.

This step often involves obtaining bank statements and other official documents to provide proof of a customer’s financial standing.

Finally, completing the AML checks involves thoroughly scrutinising the provided documents and information. This often includes verifying the customer’s address, identifying the beneficial owner (if applicable), and understanding the intended nature of the business relationship.

For AML checks to be accurate and effective, complete information about the client is imperative. Every detail, from business activity to personal finances, plays a vital role in detecting possible risks.

If any inconsistencies arise, further investigation is crucial. Delving deeper into such situations can prevent potential illegal activity from slipping through the cracks.

The role of different stakeholders in anti-money laundering checks

Estate agents play an essential role in combating money laundering. They’re often the first line of defence in the property market, as criminals may attempt to launder money through property transactions.

Under AML regulations, estate agents must perform AML checks on their customers. They must verify the identity of their customers, which often involves checking an official document such as a driving licence or passport.

They’re also tasked with understanding the source of the customer’s money involved in the property transaction.

How banks conduct anti-money laundering checks

On the other hand, banks have a broader scope of AML checks due to their multifaceted role in the financial world. They are instrumental in preventing not only money laundering but also terrorist financing.

Banks conduct AML checks through a complex system of internal controls, including customer due diligence and transaction monitoring. They confirm the identity of their customers and the nature of the business or transaction.

Furthermore, they continually monitor accounts for suspicious activity. For example, if a company’s transactions abruptly deviate from their usual pattern, this could flag a risk that warrants further investigation.

Property market and anti-money laundering measures

Criminals wishing to launder money often view The property market as a lucrative sector. High-value property transactions offer an avenue for large sums of money to change hands, potentially obscuring the origin of illicit funds.

In the UK, regulations are rigorous to prevent the property market from becoming a conduit for money laundering.

A crucial component of these anti-money laundering measures involves proving the legitimacy of funds used in property transactions. Buyers must provide proof of funds – showing they possess the necessary amount – and also disclose their source of funds.

This could involve showing bank statements, proof of income, or, in some cases, inheritance documents. These steps ensure that the money involved in the transaction isn’t derived from criminal activities.

In addition, estate agents and solicitors must conduct thorough checks on all parties involved in a property sale, bolstering their ability to detect and report suspicious activity. This underpins the vital role of due diligence in transactions, assisting in the fight against financial crime.


Implementing and maintaining robust anti-money laundering checks is no easy task; it’s a continuous process that requires businesses, financial institutions, and various stakeholders to remain vigilant and proactive.

While the complexity and rigour of these processes may appear daunting, they serve a fundamental purpose – to safeguard our financial systems and society against the pervasive threat of money laundering and associated criminal activities.

The collective commitment to AML compliance upholds the integrity of the financial sector and fortifies our joint stand against financial crime.

FAQs about anti-money laundering checks

What are anti-money laundering checks on a credit report?

Anti-money laundering checks on a credit report form part of the process by which financial institutions, businesses, and estate agents verify the financial history of an individual or a company.

Credit reference agencies provide information such as borrowing history and economic behaviour, which can help detect potential signs of money laundering, such as sudden, unexplained increases in wealth or irregular transactions.

Why do estate agents do anti-money laundering checks?

Estate agents are crucial in performing anti-money laundering checks because they are often the first point of contact in the property buying process.

These checks help to ensure that money used in the property transaction is legitimate, reducing the risk of the property market being exploited for money laundering.

What documents are required for AML checks in the UK?

In the UK, the documents required for AML checks can vary but generally include proof of identity (such as a passport or driving licence) and proof of address (like a utility bill or bank statement). In some cases, further information about the source of funds may also be needed.

How do banks check for money laundering?

Banks use various methods to check for money laundering, including monitoring customer transactions, carrying out customer due diligence, and checking against lists of individuals and organisations known or suspected to be involved in financial crime.

In cases where a transaction appears suspicious, banks must report this to the relevant authorities for further investigation.

Read more