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Money Laundering Gambling industry is turning a ‘blind eye to dirty money’

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson says the government has questions to answer after bookie William Hill is fined £6.2m for breaching anti-money-laundering and social responsibility regulations

THE gambling industry is turning a “blind eye to dirty money,” deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said today after bookie William Hill was fined £6.2 million for “systemic failing.”

The bookmaker breached anti-money-laundering and social responsibility regulations between November 2014 and August 2016, a Gambling Commission investigation revealed.

William Hill allowed 10 customers to deposit large sums of money linked to criminal offences, which led to gains of more than £1.2 million for the company. The bookmaker was not doing adequate checks on the source of the customers’ funds, the regulator said.

It also failed to pick up on those with gambling problems, the commission said. One customer was allowed to deposit £541,000 over 14 months, after an assumption was made, based on a conversation, that their potential income could be in excess of £365,000 a year. In reality, this person was earning £30,000 a year and was stealing from their employer to fund their addiction.

Another punter was allowed to deposit £653,000 in 18 months, triggering an alert that should have been reviewed by managers. This did not happen and the individual was able to continue gambling for another six months, despite continuing to activate financial alerts, the commission said.

The commission’s executive director Neil McArthur said it will use the “full range” of enforcement powers to ensure gambling is fairer and safer after the “systemic failing at William Hill.”

As a result of the investigation, William Hill will have to pay more than £5 million for breaching regulations and divest itself of the £1.2 million it earned from transactions with the 10 customers. The commission added that any identified victims of the 10 customers who used cash linked to crime will be reimbursed.

The bookmaker will also have to appoint external auditors to review its anti-money-laundering and social policies and procedures and share findings with the wider industry.

Mr Watson, who is also shadow secretary for digital, culture, media and sport, asked why the Treasury announced last March that British gambling firms will be exempt from a new EU money-laundering directive that would require checks on bets over €2,000.

“The government has questions to answer about why they exempted bookies from new EU money-laundering rules,” he said in a statement.

“If they hadn’t, this may not have happened in the first place.”

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