The bar association has revoked the licence of two law firms who had fallen foul of money laundering regulations while five other cases relating to the citizenship by investment programme were pending and would soon be tabled before the board, its chairman Doros Ioannides said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a news conference, Ioannides said the association’s supervision and compliance department has carried out around 700 checks at law firms, imposing a number of fines.
“We have issued fines and recently we have revoked the operating licence of two administrative services providers,” he said. “At the moment, from quite recent inspections, we have five more cases pending and they will be presented before the board for approval.”
Ioannides said the cases concerned failure to adhere to the directives relating to money laundering and the due diligence they should have done.
After the association finishes their probe, they will notify the anti-money laundering unit Mokas.
The unit has already been informed about the two firms whose licences have been revoked.
Ioannides said their investigation focused on individuals whose names came up in citizenship cases.
Ioannides said the association carried out two types of checks, on site and remotely, to ensure law firms adhered to the procedures dictated by the regulations so that the money they handled were both clean and have no connections with terrorism.
Lawyers involved in the citizenship by investment programme must identify their client and carry out due diligence, he said. They must also know their place of residence and know the source of the money.
The firms must implement the regulations diligently and try and collect every little detail about their client. Claiming they did not know, or they could not find out was not an excuse, Ioannides said.
He said the association was making every effort to prevent offenders from insulting the entire profession, which was trying to safeguard the country as a service centre.
“All our efforts are made towards enforcing the UN convention against corruption,” Ioannides said. “We will try to help our country shake off this wrong message that Cyprus is linked to corruption and we will always implement the instructions.”
Ioannides said a lawyer should try and verify a client’s criminal record, but the interior ministry must also do that after the application is submitted since it can contact the country of origin directly.