A court recently found that UK authorities did not fetter their discretion by not investigating general cotton imports potentially produced by the forced labour of Uyghur people in China.

By Stuart Alford KC, Clare Nida, Nathan Seltzer, Paul Davies, Michael Green, James Bee, and Esha Marwaha

On 20 January 2023, the High Court ruled against human rights campaigners who argued that UK authorities were improperly allowing the import of cotton textiles made in Xinjiang, a region of China associated with alleged human rights abuses against the Uyghur people. Approximately 85% of Chinese cotton is grown in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), with the “vast majority” of cotton alleged to have been produced in facilities under conditions of “detention and prison labour”.[1]

The proposal outlines 10 possible ways to strengthen corporate liability by both criminal and civil law reforms.

By Stuart Alford QC, Clare Nida, and Mair Williams

On 10 June 2022 the Law Commission published an eagerly anticipated set of proposals (the Options Paper) to overhaul criminal law as it applies to companies in the UK (see the summary here and full text here). The Law Commission is an independent commission created by Parliament to keep UK law under review and to recommend reforms. While the Options Paper holds back from making recommendations, it outlines 10 possible ways to strengthen corporate liability by both criminal and civil law reforms.

The once shunned cannabis sector now offers attractive PE opportunities in many jurisdictions.

By Stuart Alford QC, Tom D. Evans, Eveline Van Keymeulen, Elizabeth Richards, David J. Walker, and Catherine Campbell

In years gone by, the prospect of significant PE investment in the cannabis industry would have been unthinkable for many. However, regulatory and legal developments have created opportunities for medical cannabis businesses and legalised new non-medical cannabis applications in many jurisdictions. According to Pitchbook, buyout firms invested US$3.54 billion into the cannabis sector in 2021 across 223 transactions, showing significant appetite for deals. PE firms now have scope to embrace growing medical and consumer interest in certain jurisdictions, while in others, such as the US, evolving legal restrictions continue to challenge investors.

FATF has published its highly anticipated report on the effectiveness of the UK’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing measures.

By Jon Holland, Rob Moulton, and Jonathan Ritson-Candler

On 7 December 2018, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) published its highly anticipated mutual evaluation report of the UK. The report sets out the UK’s global standing in combatting money laundering and terrorist financing. The report is generally positive, ranking the UK as either highly or substantially effective in its fight against money laundering and terrorist financing in the majority of areas. The report does, however, highlight some concerns about the UK’s approach, particularly in relation to the Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) regime, the utilisation of financial intelligence, and the FCA’s role in the supervision of firms’ compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CTF) rules.

The UK’s last FATF evaluation took place in 2007 and in light of recently heightened sensitivities around money laundering, the government was motivated to ensure that the UK maintained its status as a global financial centre with robust tools to combat financial crime. The report summarises the FATF’s analysis, based on its on-site visit in March 2018, of the UK’s compliance with the FATF 40 Recommendations and the effectiveness of the UK’s AML and CTF regimes. It also provides recommendations as to how those systems can be strengthened.

Key Findings

The report is largely positive and states that the UK:

  • Has a robust understanding of the money laundering and terrorist financing risks to which it is subject.
  • Proactively investigates, prosecutes, and convicts a range of money laundering and terrorist financing activity, securing approximately 1,400 convictions a year for money laundering offences.
  • Has improved its legal framework since the 2007 evaluation by implementing the People with Significant Control (PSC) Register to aid enforcement agencies, regulators and businesses in identifying the ultimate beneficial owners of UK-incorporated companies.
  • Ensures that all entities within the FATF definition of “financial institution” (e.g., banks and regulated investment firms) and “Designated Non-Financial Business Professionals” (e.g., lawyers and accountants) are subject to appropriate AML and CTF rules and are supervised for compliance with those rules.

Examples of good and poor practices provide helpful guidance, and a reminder of supervisory expectations.

By Frida Montenius, Jonathan Ritson-Candler, and Charlotte Collins

The FCA has published TR18/3, setting out the findings from its thematic review of the anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CTF) systems and controls in 13 Electronic Money Institutions (EMIs). Although the review only focused on EMIs, the findings have wider read-across and therefore are of interest to all firms within scope of the Money Laundering Regulations 2017 (MLRs 2017).

Indeed, given the FCA’s current focus on financial crime as a priority area in its supervisory (and enforcement) activities — and the fact that updating policies and procedures to reflect changes brought about by the MLRs 2017 perhaps may have been overlooked by some — now is a good time for firms to reflect on AML and CTF systems and controls and check that they are up to date and meeting expectations.