Safe Harbor
Legal protection for financial institutions, their directors, officers and employees from criminal and civil liability for breach of any restriction on disclosing information imposed by contract or by any legislative, regulatory or administrative prohibition, if they report their suspicions in good faith to the Financial Investigation Unit (FIU), even if they did not know precisely what the underlying criminal activity was, and regardless of whether illegal activity actually occurred.
Seize
To prohibit the transfer, conversion, disposition or movement of funds or other assets on the basis of an action initiated by a competent authority or a court under a freezing mechanism. However, unlike a freeze, a seizure allows the competent authority to take control of specified funds or other assets. The seized assets remain the property of the person(s) or entity(ies) that held an interest in them at the time of the seizure, although the competent authority will often take over possession, administration or management of the seized assets.
Senior Foreign Political Figure
U.S. term for foreign politically exposed persons. See Politically Exposed Persons.
Settlors
Persons or companies who transfer ownership of their assets to trustees by means of a trust deed. Where the trustees have some discretion as to the investment and distribution of the trust’s assets, the deed may be accompanied by a non-legally binding letter setting out what the settlor wishes done with the assets.
Shell Bank
Bank that exists on paper only and that has no physical presence in the country where it is incorporated or licensed, and which is unaffiliated with a regulated financial services group that is subject to effective consolidated supervision.
Smurfing
A commonly used money laundering method, smurfing involves the use of multiple individuals and/or multiple transactions for making cash deposits, buying monetary instruments or bank drafts in amounts under the reporting threshold. The individuals hired to conduct the transactions are referred to as “smurfs.” See Structuring.
Sting Operation
Investigative tactic in which undercover officers pose as criminals, sometimes through a “front” business, to win the confidence of suspected or known criminals to gather information and to obtain evidence of criminal conduct. It is an effective means of identifying criminals, penetrating criminal organizations and identifying tainted property in money laundering and other cases.
Structuring
Illegal act of splitting cash deposits or withdrawals into smaller amounts, or purchasing monetary instruments, to stay under a currency reporting threshold. The practice might involve dividing a sum of money into lesser quantities and making two or more deposits or withdrawals that add up to the original amount. Money launderers use structuring to avoid triggering a filing by a financial institution. The technique is common in jurisdictions that have compulsory currency reporting requirements. See Smurfing.
Subpoena
Compulsory legal process issued by a court to compel the appearance of a witness at a judicial proceeding, sometimes requiring the witness to bring specified documents. The term can refer to either the process or the actual document that compels the recipient to act.
Suspicious Activity
Irregular or questionable customer behavior or activity that may be related to a money laundering or other criminal offense, or to the financing of a terrorist activity. May also refer to a transaction that is inconsistent with a customer’s known legitimate business, personal activities, or the normal level of activity for that kind of business or account.
Suspicious Activity Report (SAR)
See Suspicious Transaction Report.
Suspicious Transaction Report (STR)
A government filing required by reporting entities that includes a financial institution’s account of a questionable transaction. Many jurisdictions require financial institutions to report suspicious transactions to relevant government authorities such as its FIU on a suspicious transaction report (STR), also known as a suspicious activity report or SAR.