Since 2 February 2004, all lawyers must comply with the preventive measures included in the money laundering legislation, when they exercise certain activities on behalf of their clients (Belgian law of 11 January 1993 on prevention of the use of the financial system for the purpose of money laundering and terrorism financing). This law is designed to counter money laundering and terrorism financing. To this end, it imposes a number of mandatory obligations on lawyers. Non-compliance with these obligations may result in disciplinary sanctions and administrative fines.
First, all lawyers have the obligation to identify their clients and to request and keep certain documents proving a client’s identity. During the entire duration of the client relationship, lawyers are also subject to an obligation of vigilance. Additional information may be required. This information and vigilance obligation does not only pertain to the clients of a lawyer – both natural and legal persons – but also to their agents, such as the company directors. When lawyers become aware during the exercise of the essential activities of their profession of facts, known or suspected to be related to money laundering or terrorist financing, they should immediately report this to president of the bar association, except when they are informing the client on the current state of law that applies to his personal situation or to the client’s defence or representation in (relation with) legal proceedings. It is the president of the bar association who will decide whether or not he shall pass on the reported information to the Belgian Financial Information Processing Unit.
Indeed, these obligations do not impair the professional secrecy, which continuously typifies the client-lawyer relationship.
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