Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Saudi Justice Ministry has issued new guidelines tasking all lawyers to report any suspected cases of money laundering and terrorism financing to the Interior Ministry’s Financial Investigative Unit.
In a recent speech, Saudi Justice Minister Muhammad Bin Abdul Karim Issa, called on all lawyers to take the appropriate action to reduce the threat that money laundering and terrorism financing has on the national security of Saudi Arabia. He called on all Saudi lawyers, and there are 2,115 lawyers registered with the Justice Ministry, to tighten requirements regarding the identification of clients. He stressed that all lawyers must be certain regarding the identity of their clients and who is benefiting from their legal expertise, before establishing any working relations with individuals or companies.
In addition to this, the Justice Ministry ruled that a lawyer cannot have any legal or business relations with any anonymous or unknown figures; a legal client must provide his national ID card as well as any relevant business registration and licenses to his lawyer. As for foreign clients, the lawyer must verify his prospective client’s residency permit or passport, or diplomatic license, in the case of members of foreign embassies.
Saudi Justice Minister Muhammad Bin Abdul Karim Issa stressed that lawyers must also ensure that any prospective client is not listed on any domestic sanctions or embargo blacklist, or the United Nations sanctions list. He also called on all Saudi lawyers to carry out a comprehensive review of all their current clients, ensuring that they know precisely who they are working for. In addition to this, lawyers must terminate relations with clients refusing to providing documents confirming their identity. The Saudi Justice Minister also called on all lawyers to report any suspicious clients or transactions to the Interior Ministry’s Financial Investigative Unit.
The Justice Ministry instructions ban Saudi lawyers from warning clients of the existence of suspicions regarding their identity or activities, according to Article 9 of the Anti-Money Laundering Law. The Justice Minister also stressed that lawyers must save all legal records and documents for a period of no less than 10 years following the end of business relations.
The National Committee for Lawyers at the Saudi Justice Ministry revealed some of the activities that could arouse suspicion include clients giving incomplete information regarding their identity, clients refusing to provide original documents, as well as clients suddenly coming into money or asking details about the fight against money laundering.
The Ministry revealed that lawyers who fail to abide by the new procedures could be subject to disciplinary action from fines to the revocation of their legal license and even imprisonment.
The Saudi Justice Ministry has been attempting to regulate the legal profession as part of reforms to the Islamic justice system, introducing a new mechanism to issue lawyers with Justice Ministry licenses earlier this year.