Anti-Money Laundering

Money laundering affects every aspect of our society and its institutions, including financial institutions, law enforcement agencies and professional regulators.

While no single agency on its own has the resources to effectively combat it, the Law Society has played an active role in minimizing the risk that lawyers might knowingly or unknowingly have any involvement in money laundering.

Money laundering is not a victimless crime; it enables criminal activity in all walks of life and affects all Canadians. Lawyers may be at risk of being targeted by money launderers due to their roles in forming corporations and trusts, in dealing with real estate transactions, and in operating trust accounts. These areas of legal services are used every day for legitimate transactions, which is why lawyers must be vigilant to ensure that they are not used by sophisticated criminals looking to filter funds through transactions that make it appear as though the funds came from legitimate activities.

As regulator of the legal profession, the Law Society has an integral role in the broader anti-money laundering regime. The Legal Profession Act and Law Society Rules provide us with significant audit and investigative powers. Unlike the federal or provincial governments, which cannot impose duties on lawyers that undermine their duty to maintain client confidences, the Law Society’s ability to audit and investigate a lawyer’s conduct is not restricted. Lawyers are obligated to respond to our requests for information.

Our rules require lawyers to withdraw from providing services involving any dishonesty, crime or fraud — including money laundering — committed by clients or anyone else. To ensure compliance with our rules, we provide education and practice advice, offer professional development training in trust accounting, and we have a team of auditors, forensic accountants and analysts, a former RCMP senior investigator experienced in criminal proceeds of crime investigations, and investigating lawyers who are certified anti-money laundering specialists.

If there is evidence that a lawyer may have been involved in laundering money, we will investigate and take disciplinary action as necessary.