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trust services

Trusts In The Spotlight

Trusts have long been in the spotlight for criticism of the alleged use and abuse of these systems as a front for money laundering. A recent amendment in South Africa’s anti-money laundering framework has outlined new implications for trusts and trustees to combat this abuse.

Combatting The Misuse of Trusts

Trusts are regulated by common law and the Trust Property Control Act. This Act controls the administration aspect of trust services and is used as the primary governing statute. Unfortunately, trusts can be (ab)used to conceal true ownership and control, allowing them to be used more easily for illicit channelling.

While trusts are still valid and available for use, they now hold a certain spotlight for highlighting the anti-money laundering authorities, resulting in increased regulations regarding transparency and reporting. 

Experienced money launderers create multiple trusts with intricate ownership structures to obscure the true identity of the individuals involved, making it nearly impossible to detect and trace the flow of funds. This has led to trusts, once known solely as a legitimate estate planning tool, being a key indicator to authorities for potential money laundering.

In an effort to address the shortcomings of these financial structures, South Africa has passed The Amendment Act to strengthen the regulatory measures required to fight these illicit activities.

What To Know About The Amendment Act

The Amendment Act specifically targets trusts through imposed measures believed to reduce criminal activity. The concept of “beneficial ownership” has been introduced into trust law to regulate that trusts keep accurate records of beneficiaries. Trustees must also record and report on changes to the ownership structure, with non-compliance resulting in fines and possible jail time. 

With various provisions on the horizon, we caution trustees to research these vital changes to ensure their trust remains compliant. Should you require assistance, the professionals at MMS Group can assist with reliable trust services. Contact us today.