In Central America, Panama and Dominican Republic the current laws of Anti Money Laundering (AML) and other related crimes point out the measures that according to the level of risk, a natural and/or legal person or a professional, must implement to prevent being used or participate directly or indirectly in the crime of money laundering.
In general, the law imposes to companies, law firms, lawyers and notary public, among others, the obligation to report certain type of transactions and to carry out a due diligence of current and potential clients.
In the Central American region, the applicable legislation is the following. In Guatemala, Law and Bylaws against money laundering and other assets and law and bylaws to prevent and restrain de financing of terrorism, Decree 67-2001 and 58-2005; El Salvador, “law against money laundering and other assets, Decree 498-2015; Honduras, “law of designated non-financial professions and activities, Decree 131-2014; Nicaragua, “Law N° 793 creating the Finance Analysis Unit , Decree N° 07-2013 of bylaws of law N° 793 and the resolution N° UAF-N-007-2016 “Registration of Finance Institutions and Non- Financial Activities in the Registry of Obliged Subjects of the Finance Analysis Unit “; in Costa Rica, “law 8204 reformed by Law 8719 which names the Finance Intelligence Unit (in Spanish, UIF); in Panamá, the law 23 of April 27 of 2015 (Measures to prevent the money laundering , the financing of terrorism and creates the Office of Supervision and Regulation of Non-Financial Subjects) ; the Agreement 307 of April 24 of 2015 (Especial Registry for the registration of lawyers and law firms which will custody of certificates of shares issued to the bearer; law 2 of February 1 of 2011(Measures for resident agents of Knowing their Client); Law 47 of August 6 2013 (Regime of custody for certificate of shares issued to the bearer) ; the general resolution of the Board of Directors SBP-GJD-0009-2014 (by which is established the measures for identification of the real owner or final beneficiary of companies ; Law 18 of April 2015 (which modifies law 47 of 2013 and adopts a new applicable regime for the custody of certificates of shares issued to the bearer ; agreement No. 005-2015 of May 26 of 2015 (Authority of Banks of Panama); Resolution No 002-2016 of January 6 2016 (MEF); in Dominican Republic lawyers, law firms, companies and notary public have to report transactions as indicated by Law No. 72-02 about money laundering, and Bylaws No. 20-03 de; law 196-11 and recently passed law 155-17.
Regarding the report of transactions, the law obliges companies, law firms, and professionals such as lawyers and notary public, among others, to report any transaction above US$10,000 and any other transaction that involves the purchase, sale or transfer of real estate or other goods such as arms, gems, metals, art, jewelry, cars and insurance.
On the other hand, the obligation to carry out the due diligence to each current and potential client is mandatory to companies, law firms, and professionals such as lawyers and notary public, among others. The due diligence must include (a) identification of the client and verification of the identity based on documents, data and information of independent and trustworthy sources; (b) identification and verification of the person that acts on behalf of the client and verification that it is authorized to do so; (c) identification of the final beneficiary and take reasonable measures to verify the identity through data and trustworthy sources; (d) understand and when applicable, obtain information of the purpose of the commercial and finance relationship; (e) complete the verification of identity of the client according to the risk level defined in the relevant policies and procedures.
The sanctions for the breach of law include fines and prison from 4 to 20 years depending of the type of participation in the crime/crimes (for example participating, acquiring, being an accomplice and/or being an advisor).
AML and other crimes´ law provide practical and elemental tools for the transparency of the daily business operations of companies, law firms, and for certain professions such as lawyers and notary public, among others. It also highlights the importance of knowing clients and providers and verify their identity through documents and reliable data.
It is mandatory for companies, including law firms, to have an appropriate and supervised Compliance Program that ensures the compliance with internal and external laws and which by the way, will bring more security of the investments when doing business in the region.
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Legal services manager
CENTRAL LAW – Centroamérica, Panamá y Rep Dominicana.