Customer due diligence in banking

How does CDD effectively help with AML Compliance?

CDD or customer due diligence in the banking sector and other financial firms is an important aspect of AML compliance. There are various international regulators that have strict guidelines issued over the years in order to clamp down money laundering and transference of funds for terrorist activities. United States’ Federal Financial Institutions Examinations Council on Customer Due Diligence (FFEIC) and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) are among some of the major global organisations to set forth the regulations to combat financial crimes. 

Here are some of the basic pointers to help you understand the phenomenon of Customer Due Diligence for banks and other financial institutions along with AML compliance. 

Customer due diligence in banking industry

Customer due diligence means identifying who your customers are by verifying various pieces of information such as their name, address, date of birth, and official identification document obtained from a reliable and independent source. 

In today’s heavily regulated markets it is more important than ever to know your customers. Identifying them accurately using KYC processes for customer due diligence during the early stages of onboarding can ensure that your organisation does not lose money to frauds or that your institution is not charged with a fine from national or international regulators for non-conformity. The main benefit of the customer due diligence process in banking is therefore assessing the level of financial risk a customer may pose to your overall operations through a risk-based approach. There needs to be a solid effort on part of the financial institutions including banks to follow through the money trail, origin & destination of transactions, legality of the business, and revenue streams. International governments around the globe are increasingly stressing upon the importance of the customer due diligence for banks, and to have sufficient processes in place to verify and identify their customers. Customer due diligence in banking is important to prevent significant financial losses due to reputational, operational, and legal damages, caused by money laundering and related financial crimes. 

The customer due diligence process in banking ensures that the banks regularly maintain and update their policies to verify customers’ during onboarding and to determine the on-going pattern of transactions to detect money-related crimes through suspicious accounts. 

With the right customer due diligence in banking practises, banks and other financial institutions can drastically lower the risk of financial crimes and can improve customer onboarding and experience altogether.

Types of Customer Due Diligence for banks

There are three types of customer due diligence known in the banking industry: Standard, simplified, and enhanced due diligence, respectively.

Standard due diligence:

This type of due diligence process for banks involves the initial stages of verifying and identifying customers through KYC practices. Here, customers are verified based on their personal identity information and government-issued ID documents. This process is performed by a reliable and independent third-party source. Standard due diligence in the banking industry purposely prioritizes those with moderate risk elements. It is carried out to uncover the intended reason for a business partnership, in case of large transactional volume, or suspected criminal activities.

Simplified due diligence:

Based on risk assessment approaches, this type of due diligence in the banking industry involves considerable low or no risk of financial crimes such as customers who are residing in low-risk areas can be identified simply through ID documents and PII.

Enhanced due diligence:

On the contrary, enhanced customer due diligence in banking is performed when the financial risks of money laundering, corruption, tax evasion, and terrorist financing are high. It involves high-risk customers residing in high-risk areas, and they can be asked for additional identification information. Enhanced due diligence process for banks will ensure that larger funds, assets, and transactions are duly vetted to minimize the risk of crimes and regulatory penalties, consequently. Here customers are screened against Politically-exposed person (PEP’s) lists, government-issued sanctions, and blacklists.

 Beneficial Ownership & AML Compliance

A financial institute or fund managing entity also needs to identify the ‘beneficial owner’ of respective assets and accounts in question. This kind of authentication is necessary because in many cases customers that show up at a front desk are actually acting on behalf of another person in a particular transaction. This kind of transactional behavior is showcased because the beneficial owner wants to conceal their identity. This protocol of customer due diligence in banking requires you to establish the ownership structure of a company, and partnership.

To have a wider understanding, a typical beneficial owner is a person who carries out the transactional activities on behalf of the original owner. So to ensure the customer’s identity and remove any doubts customer due diligence in banking is the step forward. This kind of cautionary behavior might not seem appropriate for businesses as they may consider the customer due diligence process as burdensome but this is your best chance to prevent yourself from becoming an unwanted participant in money laundering.

 

Shufti Pro is a perfect solution for banking organisations and financial institutions that are looking to adopt AML Compliance in addition to customer due diligence. We offer an artificial intelligence-based SaaS product that not only provides AML compliance but KYC services as well to make the entire process of customer onboarding and transaction monitoring hassle-free for businesses around the globe.

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Politically Exposed Person - An unsaid threat to Businesses

Politically Exposed Person – An unsaid threat to Businesses

A politically exposed person or PEP is the one who has been assigned to perform prominent public functions or the one who has a high profile role in society. Due to their position, they can commit money laundering offences and other related corrupt activities like terrorist financing. This thing has already been confirmed by many case studies and analysis reports. There is a proper list available that has all names of PEPs known as the PEP list. Such people are a high risk for the financial sector as they are more likely to become involved in financial crimes like money laundering and financing of terrorists than other people. PEP status highlights additional risk involved, so businesses must apply additional AML/CFT measures when establishing a business relationship with these persons. 

PEP status does not predict criminal behaviour but signals the businesses to be more vigilant. Businesses must conduct proper monitoring to ensure that they do not miss a change in PEP’s risk profile. PEP monitoring requirements are not indicative of criminal behaviour but are just preventive in nature. The evident potential risk factors associated with PEPs justify the application of additional preventive measures when it comes to establishing business relationships with PEPs. In order to avoid reputational and regulatory damages, organizations should understand how to recognize a politically exposed person (PEP) and their associates. 

Defining Politically Exposed Persons

This term first emerged as “Senior Foreign Political Figure ” in the wake of an Abacha Affair which was a money-laundering scandal in Nigeria, this case jolted global efforts to secure the abuse of financial institutes by the public figures. 

PEP, according to FATF Recommendation is defined as following

“Individuals who are or have been entrusted with prominent public functions in a foreign country, for example, Heads of State or of government, senior politicians, senior government, judicial or military officials, senior executives of state-owned corporations, important political party officials.”

According to EU Third Anti-Money Laundering Directive:

“Natural persons who are or have been entrusted with prominent political functions and immediate family members or persons known to be close associates of such persons.”         

Three Major Types of PEPs:

The AML and CFT Act identifies three major types of PEPs which are as follows:

Domestic PEP

A person who has a prominent public position or has a role in a government body.

Foreign PEP

Someone who holds a prominent public position or a role in some other country is considered as a foreign PEP. 

International organisation PEP

A person who has a high position in an international organisation, such as the United Nations (UN), the World Trade Organisation (WTO) or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

List of PEPs- A Detailed Insight:

Financial institutions and businesses can categorize PEPs as:

Government Officials

Current or former government officials that are in domestic or foreign government positions including heads of states, individuals working in executive, administrative, legislative, military or judicial institutes in various elected or unelected roles.  

Political Party Officials

Officials that are appointed to senior positions in major political parties at home or in foreign countries. 

Senior Executive:

Individuals who are serving in senior executive roles, for instance, directors or board members in government owned or foreign organizations.

Family Members

Family member, the immediate one, of a political or government official, or of a senior executive. For instance, spouse, parents, children, siblings, or spouses’ parents or siblings. 

Categories of PEP

Categories of PEP

 

The Subjective Nature of PEPs:

To define politically exposed persons there is no single international standard so far. Subjective judgment has to be made in order to decide if an individual is politically exposed by taking into account the associated risks. These may be influenced by their seniority and time spent out of the office if they were ever in an eligible PEP position. In the same way, there is no defined objective on whether an individual qualifies as a family or a close associate. 

FATF Recommendations for PEPs:

There are confirmed risks associated with PEPs that justify stringent measures to be taken to put a halt on financial crimes such as money laundering, terrorist financing, and others. Businesses are required to take preventive measures before establishing a relationship with such persons. Businesses to perform a proper PEP list screening whenever a new customer is onboarded to check the criminal history and associated risks. FATF requires countries to ensure that financial institutions implement measures to prevent the money laundering through financial institutes by PEPs and to detect potential misuse whenever it occurs. The requirements are preventive and to be on the safe side. Moreover, businesses cannot refuse business relationships with PEP just because the client is in a PEP list. FATF measures extend on a broader spectrum to fight against financial crimes such as money laundering and not to put PEPs behind bars. 

Identification of PEPs:

To comply with AML regulations and to trace and tackle PEPs, businesses need to have a proper procedure in place. Any business entity should know when to check for a PEP and why to check for it. PEP record should be integrated in the system of every business so that the onboarding customer is screened against it and to nullify the associated risks and criminal activities. In this regard, strict Customer Due Diligence along with PEP screening must be performed before establishing a business relationship with any customer.  

The UK plans to levy on banks to prevent money laundering

The UK plans to levy on banks to prevent money laundering

According to Reuters, Britain plans to announce a new levy on banks and other financial institutions to generate 100 million pounds for the prevention of money laundering.

Corrupt foreign money has been laundered to London multiple times from Russia, Nigeria, Pakistan, former Soviet states and Asia. It is estimated by the police that around 100 billion pounds of laundered money is moved through or into Britain every year.

Rishi Sunak, the Finance Minister, plans to reveal an Economic Crime Levy to generate money for a new law enforcement technology and to hire more investigators.

The levy is likely to be implemented in 2022/23 and the Treasury will consult in the Spring about the firms that will be asked to contribute. According to Sunak, Criminals will have no place to hide their illegal earnings in the future. He stated, “We’re going to put more financial investigators and better technology on the frontline to fight against money laundering.”

Last year, an Economic Crime Plan was introduced by the government and business leaders to tackle illegitimate money with more cash for police to handle scammers and money launderers and a more useful exchange of information.

five kenyan banks

Five Kenyan banks fined under AML laws

Five commercial banks were imposed a fine of $3.75 million in Kenya for failing to report suspicious transactions under anti-money laundering regulations, according to the Chief Prosecutor, Noordin Haji. KCB Group and Equity, which are among the biggest banks in the country, were fined. Others such as Co-op Bank Kenya, StanChart Kenya and Diamond Trust were imposed with penalties.

Nearly a hundred million dollars were stolen from the National Youth Service (NYS). Many government officials and businessmen were charged with numerous crimes. This was a second time the banks had encountered fines. In 2018, the five banks were fined $4 million for not reporting suspicious transactions. Further investigations found that the lenders had failed to place appropriate systems to fight money laundering and were unsuccessful in knowing their customers as the law required.

The Chief Prosecutor was trying to defer the prosecution to notice if they improve their services within a specific time. The Chief Executives of the five banks stated that although the banks had failed to report suspicious transactions, they were not part of the corruption crime itself. In a statement, Standard Chartered Kenya announced that it had agreed to a settlement of 100 million shillings with the chief prosecutor, who had agreed to defer prosecution against the bank.

Patrick Mumu, an analyst at Genghis Capital, believes that the fines will not have a significant impact on the bank’s conduct. According to him, “The bigger impact will be at the operational level and how stringent banks will be on the movement of money and depositors, but not on their lending activities,”

former us bank risk officer

Former US Bank Risk Officer fined for AML oversight

Michael LaFontaine, former chief risk officer at U.S. Bank has been imposed a fine of $450,000 by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on the 4th March. He was charged for his negligence in failing to impede violation of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). 

Aaron Huber tweeted:

The U.S. Bank had placed an automatic transaction monitoring system mistakingly covered the number of alerts, which inhibited the law enforcement’s capability to spot suspicious activities. The bank was fined $613 million over weak money-laundering controls in 2018. U.S. Bank stated the prosecution is specific to Mr. LaFontaine and not against the bank itself. 

Mr. LaFontaine’s spokesperson claimed that numerous steps were taken by Mr. LaFontaine to enhance the bank’s anti-money laundering program. He advocated and even received funding for a system replacement. The steps were, however, described as unsatisfactory to address the deficiencies by FinCEN. 

The Spokesperson stated, “Mr. LaFontaine is proud of the work he did for U.S. Bank for more than a decade, spanning many important areas such as consumer compliance, privacy, vendor management, business continuity planning, and operational risk management,”

According to FinCEN, Mr. LaFontaine was instructed that the bank’s transaction-monitoring system was ineffective and its anti-money laundering staff was stretched too thin. Kenneth Blanco, the FinCEN Director, gave a statement that Mr. LaFontaine’s negligence prevented U.S. Bank from filing reports about suspicious and potential criminal activity. 

Mr. Blanco further stated that FinCEN encourages technological innovations to manage money laundering but the technology must be used properly.

Top 6 Trends in Anti-Money Laundering for 2020

Top 6 trends in Anti-Money Laundering for 2020

To enhance the scope of AML compliance, new regulations were brought into force throughout last year. In this demanding regulatory atmosphere, financial institutes are expected to adapt to the needs of evolving and competitive financial ecosystems.The key concept of 2020 for AML compliance is the investment in the collaboration of credible data, human intelligence, and advanced technology. So far many achievements in this regard proved to be just a tip of the iceberg but 2020 is expected to be a fruitful year to witness real enhancements in this field. AML practices are required by businesses across the globe to perform customer due diligence.  It is not an uphill task as it may seem. It is an investment of a few thousand dollars to demit the loss of millions. 

AML Regulations for Businesses

Anti-money laundering (AML) screening has been employed by financial institutions to detect suspicious transactions and analyzing customer data. AML is to filter customer data, classify it according to the level of suspicion and inspect it for errors like any sudden and substantial increase in funds or a large withdrawal or many others. AML screening is used to detect money laundering, terrorist financing, and tax evasion, etc. The businesses are required to conduct proper AML due diligence to comply with AML regulations. Global organizations need to keep check and balance and devise a proper AML program. Relevant customer data is screened through official and non-official high-risk watch lists to identify potential risk customers. Moreover, businesses must have the legal documents of their distributors and resellers to verify that they are complying with global AML regulations.

6 Trends in AML to Watch out for

According to the European Banking Authority(EBA), AML is the top priority for the EU in 2020 as money laundering and terrorist financing are the main threatening risks. To address the issue EBA will form a new committee to ensure a collaborative approach towards the problem by working on a superimposable implementation of different policies. The aim is to investigate the breaches of AML regulations and take necessary actions. Following are some trends of AML to watch in 2020:

Get ready for more information on Ultimate Beneficial Owners

The many creative ways criminals use shell companies and offshore structures to hide their laundered money have become public knowledge after Panama Paper leaks. To counter this, this year we expect ultimate beneficial ownership legislation to become a vital feature of the financial crime landscape. Global focus on UBO transparency will ramp up this year as a consequence of many legislative actions from last year. Steps are taken in the UK to introduce the ultimate beneficial ownership register for businesses by the end of this year and we are expecting to see further progress in all these jurisdictions. 

Regulatory Regimes get an Overhaul

In 2019 money laundering scandals were never far from the headlines. For instance, the Danske Bank scandal which exposed the threatening level of suspects that flowed unchecked through European banks in past years. This year European authorities will be less lenient and more assertive with enforcement when dealing with financial crimes. As the UK is committed to being a leader in fighting financial crimes and delivering effective financial regulations, this year the enactment of sanction and AML bill will give the UK the power to introduce its own AML legislation bill. Except for the UK, the US will maintain its regulatory financial footing by introducing new Fintech regulation. 

Standard AML rules for Crypto-businesses

As global cryptocurrency adoption continues, 2020 will be the year that such organizations get serious about AML compliance. Crypto poses AML risks for years and authorities have wrestled a lot for it. Now is the time that exchanges and mining will take a considered approach allowing for trade and investment under tight restrictions. The uneven landscape of cryptocurrency has prompted the development of the global regulatory framework.  The EU’s Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive AMLD5, implemented on 10 January 2020, will blow AML obligations for cryptocurrency exchanges which are to be compiled this year. All this enlightens that influencing big moves are expected in the global regulation of cryptocurrencies to prompt the industry to adopt new monitoring tools. So such exchanges will have to adhere to AML compliance this year as there is no other way. 

FinTech drives Demand for Automated AML

In 2020, a large number of firms will move to automated AML checks to scale faster in this increasing consumer adoption and subsequent transaction volume in this competitive FinTech climate. Manual AML generates a  massive amount of false positives which makes it difficult to onboard customers and process payments. Among so many false alarms there are high chances of missing the actual money launderers. So businesses are adopting digital solutions for AML and KYC to check who they are dealing with. This automation takes less time and is cost-effective. 

6AMLD is in the Next Big Change

Another AML directive by the EU is in the pipeline this year. This time the EU is keeping up with changing the international regime and targeting for uniform AML and CFT practices across the member countries. The new directives are to be integrated into national laws of member states by December 2020 and the reporting entities are required to fully implement the laws by June 2021. This new directive is well-drafted to close any loopholes left in AML and CFT regulations previously.

Enhanced Transaction Monitoring Solutions

This year, financial regulators will place an increased focus on the monitoring of AML risks which will include a push for businesses to adopt proper transaction monitoring processes. Regulators will expect businesses to have an effective system in place to monitor transactions. NYDFS Part 504 legislation will drive this requirement as a general move towards controls measured by the quality of outcomes. To help financial institutes configure a range of monitoring scenarios and analyze data more efficiently genuine suspicious activities need to be separated from false positives. In this regard, the availability of new transaction monitoring software platforms will become essential in 2020. Firms will gain a competitive advantage if they identify suspicious behavior patterns while cutting operational workloads.

police busted a massive

Police busted a massive £215m money laundering ring in the Northern Ireland

PSNI police arrested 7 individuals following one of the biggest money-laundering investigations in the history of Northern Ireland. A senior detective describes it as one of the significant live money-laundering investigations in the UK which involve £215m.

The chief police officer said, “During our extensive investigation we identified that a significant volume of suspected criminal cash was being laundered out of the country through a number of shell companies and bank accounts held here in Northern Ireland. The investigation has identified over 50 companies and over 140 bank account.”

He further added that approximately £215m was deposited to thousands of bank accounts across the UK and also transferred out of the country through different foreign exchange companies since 2011. 

According to Ian Wilson, money laundering is one of the critical enablers of organized criminality. And the majority of this black money is derived from different criminal activities. 

Several other agencies were involved in this investigation, including the Garda economic crime branch, Criminal Assets Bureau, National Crime Agency, the United Kingdom Financial Investigation Unit, Her Majesty’s Revenue, and Customs and Europol.

6AMLD of EU - A Detailed Insight

6AMLD of EU – A detailed insight

European union’s another anti-money laundering directive is in the pipeline. And this time the union is aiming for uniformity in AML/CFT practices across member countries while keeping up with changing international regimes.

The estimated amount of money laundered globally in one year is 2 – 5% of global GDP, or $800 billion. And in the EU money laundering accounts for up to 1.2 % of the EU’s annual GDP, or around $225.2bn (€197.2bn) in 2018, according to a 2017 report by Europol.

Recently the 5AMLD was implemented on 10 January 2020. The fifth directive mainly targeted loopholes in certain sectors. It addressed the loopholes in prepaid cards, virtual assets, and precious metal dealing. The major change that came due to 5AMLD is that the identity verification threshold for prepaid cards is reduced from €250 to €150. This threshold for remote transactions is €50. 

Now the 6AMLD is in the next big change in the AML/CFT regimes of the EU. The member states are required to integrate the new directive into their national laws by December 2020 and the reporting entities are required to completely implement the new laws by June 2021. The new directive is drafted well to close any left loopholes in AML/CFT regulations.

Key Features of 6AMLD

The 6AMLD is not only about fulfilling minimum regulatory requirements but about changing the attitude towards AML/CFT. The reporting entities need to go another mile to play their role in eliminating money laundering.

Key Features of 6AMLD

1. A list of predicate offences

A list of 22 predicate offences is provided in AMLD6. It includes offences related to environmental crime, cyber crimes, tax crime, and self-laundering. The directive includes ‘aiding and abetting’ and ‘attempting and inciting’, which means that criminal liability will be extended to people or businesses that are used in the criminal offence. Businesses will be liable for penalties if money laundering is channeled through their system due to a lack of preventive measures. 

The offenses are clearly defined in the official journal of the 6AMLD. The reason behind this measure is to create uniformity in the AML/CFT measures of member states. Because lack of uniformity is one of the major reasons behind money laundering scandals in EU member states. 

2. Increase in non-compliance penalties

The 6AMLD has clearly defined the penalties for businesses and individuals. 

Natural persons 

The individuals involved in money laundering are called “natural persons” in the 6AMLD. Non-compliance penalty is increased for the natural persons. Now a sentence of four years is non-compliance penalty, it was one year previously. As mentioned in the official journal

In order to deter money laundering throughout the Union, Member States should ensure that it is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least four years.”  

Also, the monetary fine is increased to five million Euros. 

Legal persons 

Businesses are described as “legal person”. In case a business is found to be a part of a financial crime due to lack of AML measures or negligence it will be liable for these below-mentioned penalties:

  • Exclusion from entitlement to public benefits or aid
  • Permanent or temporary disqualification to perform commercial activities
  • Judicial winding up
  • Temporary or permanent closure
  • Placed under judicial supervision

3. “Aiding and Abetting” and “ inciting and attempting” 

The scope of AML regulations is increased to” aiding and abetting” and “ inciting and attempting”. The 6AMLD official journal clearly states, “Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that aiding and abetting, inciting and attempting an offence referred to in Article 3(1) and (5) is punishable as a criminal offence.”

4. Alignment with international laws

The Journal states that the member countries are required to implement the 6AMLD while keeping their AML/CFT laws aligned with international laws. It will increase transparency in financial infrastructure. 

This means the reporting entities (businesses/ legal persons) will be required to follow the new regulations that will be aligned with international regimes.

5. FATF recommendations EU AML laws

The 6AMLD will require the member countries to align AML laws with the FATF recommendations. The tax crimes are defined as a criminal offence and the preventive measures are required to be designed in light of revised recommendations of FATF. 

6. Not missing on the virtual currencies

The sixth anti-money laundering directive requires the member countries to take concrete steps towards elimination of risk coming with these virtual assets. The reporting entities such as crypto exchanges, digital asset exchanges, cryptocurrency dealers, crypto wallet providers and businesses accepting cryptocurrency payments will be facing some major AML/KYC compliance scrutiny in 2021. 

How businesses should prepare for the change?

The ultimate effect of changing regimes is on the businesses. The new directive is drafted to change the perspective of businesses towards AML/CFT compliance. The new regulations of “Aiding and abetting”, and “ inciting and attempting” have changed the compliance requirements. Businesses will be liable for heavy penalties if they’re found to be involved in the criminal offence. Even if they’re used as a tool or a channel. 

The reporting entities are required to have an in-depth understanding of the risks and threats and to take necessary steps to eliminate the risk of any of the listed criminal offences being channeled from their platform. 

The businesses are expected to have a completely updated setup for compliance requirements. Digital identity screening could prove to be a reliable partner of the businesses in this regard. As it provides global coverage in the screening of individuals and businesses it helps reporting entities maintain a global risk cover against bad actors.

Find more relevant resources:

6AMLD of EU – A detailed insight

AML solutions: Eliminating the risks of money laundering

AML Solutions: Eliminating the Risks of Money Laundering

Money laundering is a serious crime that can have serious and long-term consequences for your business. Oftentimes, small business owners are offered business opportunities that they can’t simply pass up. It looks like easy money, so they accept and start serving as a facilitator for money laundering. According to a PwC survey, global money laundering transactions account for roughly $1 trillion to $2 trillion annually or 5% of global GDP.

What is money laundering?

The basic concept of money laundering revolves around transforming dirty money into clean money or in a more formal way, money laundering is the process of making a large amount of money generated through illegal activity appear to have earned through legitimate sources. 

Money laundering is typically done through 3 steps: placement, layering, and integration. 

  • Placement is to put illegal money into a legitimate financial system such as a bank
  • Layering is to mask the source of money through a series of transactions and bookkeeping techniques
  • Integration is to withdraw laundered money from a legal account and utilize it

Know more about money laundering process in this demo:

The money laundering is generally accomplished through currency exchanges, wire transfers, smurfing, and shell companies. Moreover, the globalization and digitalization have expanded the capabilities of money launderers, making it more difficult to identify the source of the transaction. Online banking, P2P services, money exchange businesses, and now cryptocurrency have made it difficult to detect the illegal transfer of money. 

However, laundering money is a serious offence. It could lead to heavy fines, penalties and even jail time. According to International Comparative Legal Guide, the maximum penalties for laundering money are fines up to $50,000 or double the amount of property involved, whichever is greater, and imprisonment up to 20 years for each violation. 

Risk of money laundering for small businesses

Small businesses are often the victims of money laundering. Criminals target small businesses because the owners of such businesses lack experience and knowledge about the risks involved with a certain type of business dealing. Further, they don’t have allocated resources and knowledge about Anti Money Laundering (AML) compliance.

Protecting your business against money laundering

By adopting anti-money laundering solutions and practices, you can protect your business from money laundering threats. 

What is Anti Money Laundering?

Anti-money laundering or AML is a methodology or a policy that governs: how the company monitors transactions, detects and reports financial crimes to the regulatory authority. For this purpose, companies adopt different AML solutions that screens and tackles money laundering risks, which the company faces or could face in the future.

AML compliance was first coined with the formation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in 1989. The main concept for its formation was to devise international standards to prevent money laundering and to promote these standards.

In past AML laws has been slow to catch up with cybercrimes, since most of the AML solutions were deployed for traditional banking institutes. However, amid the digital transformation, FATF and other regulatory authorities started focusing on digital transactions and devised stringent regulations to prevent money laundering using digital platforms.

To follow and comply with these regulations, businesses need AML solutions that could detect suspicious transactions and perform due diligence during the onboarding process.    

Automated AML solutions for enhancing AML process

Artificial intelligence and machine learning have been transforming different operational sectors in the finance industry. Automating the tasks that involve data processing and analyzation, filtering out false alerts, and identifying complex criminal conducts are some of the tasks that are being automated using artificial intelligence. To prevent money laundering, banks and other financial institutes use AI-driven AML solutions. These systems are used to identify and categorise suspicious transactional activities.

AI is deemed crucial for performing repetitive tasks while saving time, resources and efforts, which can be reallocated for other tasks. Natural language processing and machine learning are usually adopted for automating AML screening tasks. 

6 Ways AML Solutions can prevent Small Businesses from Money Laundering

Here are ways in which AI-driven AML solutions have revolutionised customer and business screening.

Enhanced due diligence

Artificial intelligence automates the enhanced due diligence process. It starts by taking steps to ensure you know who you are dealing with, understanding and monitoring their transactional activities and accessing their risks of money laundering.

Monitoring transactions and activity

AI-powered risk-based solutions and procedures help monitor ongoing customer activity to detect fraud, as well as money laundering activities including but not limited to placement, layering, and integration of funds.

Reviewing odd patterns of transactions

In most of the cases, launderers use hundreds of different accounts to perform small transactions that can easily surpass without being detected. While it’s difficult for humans to identify such transactions, automated AML solutions can easily identify such smaller transactions and reveal a pattern of illegal activity related to money laundering or terrorist financing.

Identifying Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs)

PEPs compliance is mandatory for firms. It is crucial to identify the risks associated with your customers. According to FATF, any person who is or has been holding any public office or function is a politically exposed person and to do business with any such entity, organisations should perform enhanced due diligence and monitor their ongoing transactional activities.  

Money laundering is a serious risk for small businesses. In addition to facing criminal charges and hefty fines. Involving in money laundering activity intentionally or accidentally could lead to fines and may damage your brand reputation. With this in mind, small business owners need to study and comply with AML regulations. 

An inside look at the need for AML in the e-gaming industry

An inside look at the need for AML in the e-gaming industry

Data analytics and trends show the penetration of the population into console-based online video games and smartphone gaming applications. Online video gaming platforms having microtransaction features tend to handle much of financial transactions on their own, they are not considered a bank or a saving association. Therefore do not lie under the regulations of the Office of Foreign Assets Control or Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). However, the facility of financial transactions to buy gaming assets are raising several security challenges in the e-gaming industry. 

Financial frauds, the major threat the e-gaming industry is prone to. Money laundering, a huge financial crime is facilitated using the gaming industry a medium. By selling digital goods and currency (in-game), money laundering activities are conducted. The rise of online gaming has opened the ways for fraudsters to conduct financial crimes in the complex environment in which players operate. The loopholes in the gaming systems are well-analyzed and misused by laundering millions. This is challenging for the e-gaming industry to regulate the sector and deter the risks of financial crimes. 

Moreover, money launderers use e-gaming platforms to convert embezzle funds into good money. The video game industry can reduce money laundering activities by taking in place dynamic AML practices that filter out the bad actors beforehand. 

Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Terrorist Financing (AML/CFT)

To disguise the ownership of illicit funds, money launderers use several means to hide money or convert it into legitimate money. The money that is earned as a result of cross-border organized criminal activities is concealed by money launderers either by transferring it across the world or buying properties with that. This is what happens in the online gaming industry. Assets are bought with in-game currency and in the form of assets, money is laundered. 

Having a comprehensive AML and CFT program is not only a regulatory requirement but a business practice on which business reputation, as well as profits, are dependent. Moreover, to fight against the criminal liabilities facilitated through e-gaming platforms can better be avoided taking in place stringent AML and CFT actions. 

Player identification

Online casinos’ major concern is fraud prevention. Especially money laundering that is residing in the industry can better be prevented by identifying each onboarding player at the time of account registration and financial transactions. Customer Due Diligence and AML background checks should be implemented in real-time while onboarding a player. This will help build a clean customer base.

Player identification usually can be performed by verifying the identity details. By authenticating official ID documents, KYC compliance can be achieved. The real-time captured information is then validated against the updated global watchlists. AML screening is performed during identity validation in which various AM background checks are implemented that ensure the identity’s data against exclusion lists such as;

  • Sanction Lists
  • Government-issued Data Sources
  • Watchlists
  • Money Launderers
  • Criminal Databases
  • Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) List

By collecting the extensive details from identity and validating them against criminal databases, online casinos and gaming platforms can build a compliance program that can help them comply with local and global regulatory obligations as well as protect their business from any monetary loss. 

Moreover, ongoing identity monitoring is equally important. One time identity verification can not help eliminate money laundering activities entirely. In-between identity verification deters the risks of malicious transactions and suspicious activities. Just to overcome the effort of identity verification, biometric identification can help in robust verification without compromising user experience and keeping intact the security perspectives simultaneously. 

Other money-laundering countermeasures

Other than verifying the identity of a player, countermeasures can be taken that prevent the direct and indirect approaches of fraudsters of laundering money. These measures are:

  • Detective and preventive controls in assistance with technology should be taken to investigate if some players are exchanging the information among themselves to cheat the gaming system and perform money laundering.
  • Preventive measures against identity theft should be taken to avoid the misuse of someone’s identity by the fraudster to launder money. 
  • The customer information collected at the time of identity verification should be protected from any uncontrolled/unauthorized access. 
  • The customer’s credit card details should be protected from unauthorized access.
  • Enhanced Due Diligence measures to combat money launderers from entering into a legitimate system.
  • Prohibiting direct payment system between customers.
  • Monitoring the transactions between countries and immediate blocking when money is sent to some country that does not register previously as the home country.
  • Reporting of suspicious transactions to the Financial Intelligence Unit.

Risk-based approach

Online gaming companies are required to evaluate the measures they have taken to counter bad actors and their malevolent activities in an online environment. Identification of risks and mitigating them to avoid severe circumstances is the priority of every business. Assigning each onboarding identity a risk rating can help prevent money laundering in the e-gaming sector. With the risk rating approach, gaming companies can develop appropriate AML and CFT measures to combat potential threats. 

Future prospects to combat money laundering in e-gaming

The online video gaming industry will be evolving in the years ahead and create new opportunities for enhanced monetization. By employing an enhanced identity verification framework, the e-gaming sector can proactively avoid regulatory fines and penalties. Identity verifications supported by AI-based and machine learning models that facilitate automation facility would be the future of combating money laundering from the online gaming industry. Hence, providing a financially safer platform and a secure environment from bad actors. Moreover, improved revenue generation opportunities for e-gaming seems to be on the way in years ahead. 

A lawsuit is filed against LifeLabs for a data breach incident

A lawsuit is filed against LifeLabs for a data breach incident

As reported earlier, the Canadian laboratory testing company, LifeLabs was hit with a cyber-attack which resulted in a data breach of 15 million customers. Following the incident, the lawsuit is filed against the company.

On October 28, 2019, LifeLabs reported the data breach to the government partners, however, waited until December 17, to announce publically. The accessed data included some sensitive information, customers’ name, emails, addresses, login credentials, dob, health card numbers, and lab test results.

LifeLabs paid an undisclosed amount to the cyber-criminals who accessed the data with a promise that they won’t disclose any information publically. Nevertheless, the lawyers Peter Waldmann and Andrew Stein filed the statement against LifeLabs in Ontario Superior Court accusing them of contract breach and negligence, on December 27. Moreover, the statement indicated the violation of consumer protection laws and their customers’ privacy. 

The lawsuit was filed on the behalf of plaintiffs also included the lead plaintiff Christopher Sparling. He alleged in the statement that LifeLabs violated their own privacy policy since they failed to implement and follow the adequate cybersecurity measures and checks to detect the potential risks and threats to Customers’ data and swiftly respond them within time.

In addition, the statement also accused LifeLabs to store the customers’ information on unsecured servers and networks without any encryption protocol and they neglected the need to hire cybersecurity professionals for network security management.

While the lawyers are seeking more than $1.13 billion in compensation for the breach victims to make up for the mental anguish, damage to credit reputation and the wasted time that had to undergo, the plaintiffs are looking for additional moral and punitive damages.

After the public announcement of the breach, LifeLabs set up a toll-free helpline on December 18 and received more than 5000 calls from concerned customers. 

danske to face 2 billion fine for money

Danske to face $2 billion fine for money laundering

According to Jyske Bank, Danske will probably be fined around 13.5 billion kroner (around $2 billion) over the money laundering case by authorities in Denmark, the USA, and the UK, as the investigations in Europe’s biggest money-laundering scandal draw to a close.

Danske Bank was previously indicted for suspicious transactions of 200 billion euros at there Estonian unit. The Denmark-based bank is cooperating with probes by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, among others. Another writ, which was filed on December 27th, 2019, in the district court of Cophengan by law firm Nemeth Sigetty, is for about 1.5 billion kroner, according to a statement.

Penalties tied to investigations will drive up Danske’s operating expenses to 42.4 billion kroner this year, according to an analyst at Jyske Bank. The costs are expected to return to normal next year.

As Danske Bank released the full dimensions of laundering scandal in September 2018, it’s shares have taken a beating. It now trades at large discounts to peers and Jyske, which recommends buying the stock, says the current price more than incorporates the consequences of the money-laundering scandal.

AML compliance checklist for efficient AML screening in 2020

AML compliance checklist for efficient AML screening in 2020

2019 brought a plethora of AML regulations for businesses and non-compliance is no more an option in 2020, it’s an obligation. 

When AML compliance is inevitable, let’s see how it can be performed smartly to get efficient results. This checklist will help businesses thinking about compliance and those who want to update their compliance operations in 2020. 

The amount of globally laundered money is about 2 – 5% of global GDP in one year (report of the United Nations). And the report of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) stated that at least £100bn was laundered through the UK. The need for an efficient and constructive AML compliance is inevitable for global business entities. 

Efficient AML compliance is practicing obligatory scrutiny on customers while adopting a data-centric approach in collecting and analyzing customer data to gain useful risk-management insights. The customers’ data collected through automated due diligence solutions should be used to perform customized risk management and to assign customers a realistic risk rating. 

In short efficient AML compliance brings in several other benefits apart from eliminating non-compliance penalties. It helps businesses onboard secure clientele, develop transparent B2C and B2B relationships, improved brand reputation and market value.

AML Compliance Checklist - Infographic 2020 

2019 changed the facet of Global AML Regulation

2019 was a very unpredictable year when it comes to AML/KYC regulations. The global regulatory authorities drafted some strict AML regulations and also increased the scope of those regulations. Several new industries were also added to the scope of global AML regulations. 

FATF took a revolutionary step and issued a digital ID systems guide for the reporting entities to utilize when performing digital identity screening on their customers. The draft of the digital ID system is issued for edits from the stakeholders and it is expected to motivate businesses to move towards automated AML screening of their customers.

On the other hand, the European Union (EU) amended the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD4) and published the AMLD5 in the official journal of the EU in June 2018. It increased the scope of the AML regulations to the virtual assets sector, prepaid cards, and real estate sector. The identity verification threshold for the prepaid cards is reduced to EUR 150 from EUR 250. Also, the identity verification threshold for remote payments is set at EUR 50. 

Also, AUSTRAC, the U.S treasury, and the UK regulatory authority introduced new regulations and expanded the scope of the current AML regulations. Read more about these changes in this blog.   

AML/KYC – how 2019 changed the landscape of global regimes? 

Although the regulations changed a lot, the primary compliance requirements are the same in global regulations and they are mentioned below. But these are just the requirements following which would just be compliance and following these regulations smartly will help in efficient and productive AML compliance in 2020. 

Five Components of AML Compliance

Below are the primary components in global AML/KYC regimes, implemented by authorities such as FATF, FinCEN, FINTRAC, FINMA, etc. 

Policies, Controls and Procedures

The policies, controls, and procedures of the company must be aligned with the AML regulations. Ensure that the due diligence, customer verification, record keeping, risk assessment, and reporting operations of the company are aligned with the regulations. The AML regulations changed a lot in 2019 and the businesses must align their compliance procedures with the changed regulations. 

Awareness and Traning of Employees

It is important to train the employees at all hierarchical levels to comply with AML regulations. Making compliance a habit of the employees is important. A sense of accountability must be maintained at all levels. The Danske bank scandal which shook the financial world also happened due to a lack of accountability at an executive level.  

For efficient AML compliance train your employees regarding the changes in the regulatory framework and how they should play their part in making the company fraud-free. As efficient compliance is possible with a team effort from all the employees. 

Record Keeping

A proper updated record of customer information and AML screening must be maintained in a secure manner. In some regulations, it is to be maintained for five years even after a relationship with a client is ceased. 

For efficient AML screening, this record must be used to predict the future prospects of the company and assign customized risk ratings to the customers. 

Customer Due Diligence (CDD) 

The most important part of AML regulations is the verification of the customers and business entities related to your business. For customer due diligence the basic identity verification along with AML screening must be practiced. The customers must be verified against watchlists, sanction lists, and PEPs lists. 

For efficient AML compliance, don’t just verify the customer against domestic watchlists but practice global risk prevention and verify the customers against global watchlists. 

Reporting

Reporting is a crucial part of AML compliance. It includes reporting the unusual transaction that is above the predetermined threshold made by your customers. It helps in mitigating the unpredicted risk coming from businesses. It increases the credibility of a reporting entity. 

Devise efficient AML screening in-house protocols to keep an eye on the transaction of all customers and especially the high-risk entities. 

AML Compliance Checklist for efficient AML compliance 

Digital AML compliance solution helps in automated AML screening of prospects. And also shares the customer screening burden of the reporting entity. Below is the AML compliance checklist to experience efficient AML compliance in 2020 with the help of an AML screening solution. 

Practice global coverage in Customers Verification

In order to practice enhanced due diligence, the businesses must perform global AML screening on their customers. While onboarding a global clientele it becomes difficult for the businesses to practice AML screening on people coming from different corners of the world with ID cards in different languages. 

An AML screening solution helps in performing global AML screening on individuals. And on the businesses as well, so helps you stay one step ahead of fraudsters and also competitors who stick to minimum AML compliance requirements. 

Ongoing monitoring of customers

Performing customer due diligence is mandatory but it is required to be performed only at the time of onboarding a customer. On the other hand, efficient AML compliance is not limited to just minimum protocols so perform AML screening on your customers (especially the high-risk entities) at regular intervals. The risk status of a customer could change anytime. Ongoing AML screening of customers helps in identifying the in-house risk. 

Perform verifications but with Security

Not only money but the personal credentials of your customers are also an asset that needs to be protected from hackers. So be sure that the customer data is in safe hands. Also, AML regulations come with data protection laws. The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in the EU and CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) in the U.S are some common data protection regulations imposed on businesses collecting the data of their customers. 

Using the AML screening solution that complies with the GDPR regulations also share the burden of data protection regulations. 

Proactive risk management through valuable risk insights about your prospects

The valuable insights about the prospects (individuals and businesses) help in crafting a proper risk management framework. For example, the nationality verification helps in deciding whether a customer should be verified under CDD or Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD). 

A customer could claim to be from a low-risk country, ID card screening and AML screening against global watchlists will ensure that the person is actually who he claims to be. 

Record keeping through Intuitive back office

Record keeping is important for reporting entities. A digital AML screening solution reduces the burden here as well with the help of an intuitive back office. The verification proof of real-time verification is stored in the back office and it can be used to practice efficient AML compliance on your platform. These proofs help businesses in proving that they actually performed verification on a certain customer.

The world is changing and businesses need to move towards automation to perform their compliance operations in a smart manner. Following the minimal regulations is no more enough. Businesses need to take voluntary steps towards AML screening of their customers to practice efficient AML compliance in 2020. Following the above-mentioned AML compliance checklist will help in proactive fraud prevention and unlocking more growth opportunities.

DOJ Arrested Three Individuals In A $722 Million Cryptocurrency Ponzi Scheme

DOJ Arrested Three Individuals In A $722 Million Cryptocurrency Ponzi Scheme

The Department of Justice arrested three men on Tuesday, December 10, on charges of running an elaborate Ponzi scheme of $722 million since 2014. 

The DOJ issued a press release about the main incident saying, 

‘Matthew Brent Goettsche, 37, of Lafayette, Colorado, and Jobadiah Sinclair Weeks, 38, of Arvada, Colorado, are charged by indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and Goettsche, Weeks, and Joseph Frank Abel, 49, of Camarillo, California, are charged by indictment with conspiracy to offer and sell unregistered securities…Two defendants remain at large and their identities remain under seal.’

According to Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, Paul Delacourt, 

‘Those arrested today are accused of deploying elaborate tactics to lure thousands of victims with promises of large returns on their investments in a bitcoin mining pool, an advanced method of profiting on cryptocurrency…The defendants allegedly made hundreds of millions of dollars by continuing to recruit new investors over several years while spending victims’ money lavishly.’

The press release gives further details about the operations of ‘BitClub Network’ and how it fooled investors. The network was a pretend mining pool operation that fooled investors through false returns on Bitcoin mining operations while not actually mining any Bitcoin. The three individuals arrested were the ones who operated the network and claimed to offer shares in a ‘mining pool’ for Bitcoin. 

According to the press release by DOJ, Goettshce considered his target audience as ‘dumb’ investors and said he was ‘building this whole model on the backs of idiots’. ‘BitClub Network’ traveled the entire world to sell to new investors and made claims that they were too big of a company to fail. 

 

American Gaming Association Updates Best Practices for AML

American Gaming Association Updates Best Practices for AML

The American Gaming Association (AGA) has released updated “Best Practices for Anti-Money Laundering (AML) compliance for the year 2019-2020”. The update reflects on the industry’s continuing commitment to AML compliance and guides casinos’ efforts to protect the US financial system from money laundering and other related financial crimes. 

The gaming industry became the first industry to collectively establish a complete set of best practices for AML compliance in 2014. The Best Practices along with the AGA’s Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) compliance efforts have been lauded by the US Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). 

The updated Best Practices contain a more comprehensive risk assessment section as well as enhanced Know Your Customer (KYC) and Customer Due Diligence (CDD) measures. The update is based on FinCEN’s guidance and enforcement action takeaways, the Treasury Department’s National Money Laundering Risk Assessment and the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s updated compliance guidelines. 

The president and CEO of AGA, Bill Miller, said, 

“As one of the most highly regulated industries in the United States, it is imperative we take every possible step to discourage illicit behaviour and safeguard the integrity of the casino industry. Through our ongoing partnership with FinCEN, the Treasury Department, and law enforcement, our industry continues to be a leader in compliance.”

 

EU’s AMLD5: What does it mean and how will it impact the AML regulation regimes?

EU’s AMLD5: What does it mean and how will it impact the AML regulation regimes?

From the Panama papers, Paradise leaks and Danske Bank case to the most recent revelations about SEB bank, money laundering scandals over the last few years have taken the world by storm. As general awareness about money laundering strengthened, so did the pressure on the regulatory authorities across the globe to counter build proper anti-money laundering laws and regulations

With every new revelation, lawmakers gain a great insight into how the financial system can be exploited and, as a result, find better ways to devise new amendments in already existing laws.

This is one of the reasons why the European Commission proposed the 5th Money Laundering Directive only a year after the legalization of AMLD4. Although published in the official journal of the EU in June 2018, AMLD5 was originally proposed in July 2016 as a part of its action plan against terror financing and money laundering, after the Paris and Brussels attacks, and as a reaction to Panama paper published in 2016.

The primary intention to make changes by January 2017 looked over-aggressive; a final devised text was reached in December 2017. 5th Money laundering Directive came into force in July 2018, and member states are required to make amendments in national laws accordingly before 20th January 2020.

What are the Key Changes in the 5th Anti Money Laundering Directive? 

AMLD5 serves greater prospects and shows the European Union’s leadership role in AML legislation. One of the key features of AMLD5 is that it proposes changes in already existing legislation in AMLD4, instead of replacing them.

The precise amendments that the fifth directive proposed are:

  • The scope of money laundering screening is extended to virtual currency providers, art worker traders, e-wallet providers, and tax-related services.
  • European member states require to develop a list containing all public offices and its functions nationally that qualify as politically exposed (PEP) for enhanced due diligence.
  • Financial flows from high-risk non-European states are subjected to high due diligence.
  • AMLD5 makes it obligatory to consult beneficial ownership registers while performing AML screening.
  • The directive also recommends that access to beneficial ownership information for EU based businesses should be made publicly accessible. In AMLD4, this information was not publicly accessible.
  • It also ends the anonymity of saving accounts and safe deposits across all the banks under the European Union.
  • Information on real estate holders is to be made centrally available to public authorities across Europe.
  • The payment threshold for prepaid cards and e-money is to be lowered. Previously, the threshold was a maximum of 250 euros. AMLD5 requires this threshold to be lowered further to 150 euros.

What are the Key Changes in the 5th Anti Money Laundering Directive?

Following the spirit to become AML leaders in the world and to stop money laundering across Europe, the European Commission requires member states to implement these changes in national laws by January 20th, 2020. And as the deadline imposed by the EU ends almost in a month, let us have a deep dive into how it will impact the AML regulations landscape for businesses across Europe.

How will AMLD5 impact Anti Money Laundering Regulation Regime?

Virtual Currency Service Providers in Scope

Since the virtual currency is the talk of the town for a while now and regulators are finding ways to regulate decentralized cryptocurrencies such as bitcoins, AMLD5 will apply to virtual currency service providers as well as electronic wallet providers, to cover the risks associated with cryptocurrencies. In addition to this, the traders of artwork and entities rendering tax-related services are also in the scope of AMLD5 regulations.

Enhanced KYC including access to Beneficial Ownership Information

The business across Europe are obliged to consult related registers while performing KYC. However, for now, it is only applicable to the businesses registered and operating under the European Union.

Public Access to Beneficial Ownership Information

AMLD4 required the member states to maintain central registers for beneficial ownership information and required interested parties to demonstrate legitimate access to beneficial ownership registers. Under the AMLD5, this information is to be made publicly available except for trusts and similar legal arrangments. 

In such cases, legal information about beneficial ownership will be granted to anyone demonstrating a legitimate interest. The beneficial ownership information will be comprised of; the name of the beneficial owner, date of birth, nationality, country of residence, and the extent of the beneficial interest held in that particular business.

Access to Information on Real Estate Holders

Money Laundering through real estate is estimated to reach $1.6 trillion a year. Owing to this, the AMLD5 makes information on real estate holders, available to the public authorities. This does not require to maintain a central register for the information.

Lower Prepaid Card and E-Money Threshold

Prepaid cards are being used in money laundering across the globe. According to the FBI, drug cartels utilize prepaid cards to launder illegally earned money from drug sales across the United States. For identifying prepaid cardholders, AMLD5 lowered the threshold of prepaid cards from 250 euros to 150 euros. Furthermore, E-money transactions using prepaid cards are lowered to 50 euros. 

No member state is allowed to increase this amount, however, these amounts can be lowered further. AMLD5 not only lowers this amount but also includes strict restrictions on anonymous prepaid cards issued in non-member countries.

Regulations for Bank Accounts and Safe Deposit Box

One of the stricter regulations in AMLD5 is the abolishment of the anonymity of bank accounts, saving accounts, and safe deposit boxes. Member states are obliged to design central registries or data retrieval systems by September 10, 2020, which will be directly accessible by the Financial Intelligence Units and competent national authorities.

Once the directive is transformed into legislation, the financial institutions will require to build or render digital KYC services for the onboarding process and it is important for the financial institutes to attain clear guidance on this directive and formulate strategies accordingly.    

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