The damage to society
Financial crime has a direct link to terrorism, human trafficking, drugs trafficking and illegal arms dealing. The cost of executing the Paris terrorist attacks in 2015 was just $10,000, yet the tragic loss of life, damage to the Paris economy (an estimated $2.1 billion) and the geopolitical repercussions were catastrophic. Human trafficking is a $150 billion global industry and a third of all victims are children. Global illicit drug sales are reportedly worth around $360 billion a year, and the illegal arms trade is worth an estimated $10 billion a year.
The Ukraine crisis has brought into sharp focus the critical importance of sanctions measures to deter war and target nefarious regimes to influence a change in policy and behaviour. It is estimated the new sanctions measures imposed on Russia will stop it accessing foreign currency reserves totalling $643 billion notwithstanding the impact on its annual exports totalling $490bn, Russian residents and sanctioned parties. This however pales in comparison to the tragic loss of life in Ukraine and catastrophic geopolitical repercussions which led to the new sanctions measures in the first place. Following, the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine also became the epicentre of the illegal arms trade leading to $32 billion of missing funds.
Arguably every country in the world will have been affected by these crimes and addressing financial crime sits high on the political agenda. There is a social, political and regulatory imperative for financial institutions to take diligent and rigorous steps to mitigate financial crime risks in order to prevent the facilitation of the proceeds or crime, or potentially the funding or enablement of nefarious activities.
Reducing the impact on the bottom line
Fines and enforcement actions have a significant financial impact on institutions that fail to comply with the regulations. There is often a misguided perception that regulators need to find evidence of financial crime issues crystallising in order to take action, however the reality is the lack of appropriate systems and controls alone can result in a fine or enforcement action. While global firms can budget for the liability in some cases, smaller institutions or newer entrants will struggle to absorb these fines and/or allocate the appropriate funds to adequately fix the issue. The cost of remediation activity in many instances, far outweighs the cost of the fine due to the requirement to remediate the issues in an accelerated timeframe with significant internal and external resource requirements.