As the regulatory requirements for preventing financial crime get stricter, it is becoming increasingly difficult for organisations to meet the standards. 

Technology has become a crucial ally, introducing tools to prevent violations. Part of staying compliant involves closely inspecting Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and lists of worldwide sanctions.

In this article, we'll dive into PEP checks, explain their importance, and highlight innovative solutions to simplify your compliance efforts.


Understanding PEPs and Sanctions Checks

In a time of growing financial intricacy and connectivity, watching influential figures and sanction lists serve as critical checkpoints, safeguarding against the misuse of financial systems.

PEP checks are the mechanism by which companies evaluate individuals they plan to work with. The procedure involves examining public information and connections to identify any signs of money laundering, bribery, or other forms of financial misconduct. The goal is twofold: to protect the integrity of financial systems and to prevent PEPs from exploiting their positions for personal gain.

While PEP checks zero in on influential figures, sanctions checks broaden the scope to encompass individuals, entities, and even countries that are subject to international sanctions. Sanctions are measures imposed to curb illegal activities, terrorism, and other threats to global security. Sanctions checks involve comparing transactions against watchlists maintained by international bodies and governments to ensure compliance with these measures.


What Is a Politically Exposed Person (PEP)?

A "politically exposed person" or "PEP" refers to an individual who holds a significant public role or position. Due to their responsibilities, they could be more susceptible to engaging in activities such as bribery, corruption, or money laundering. As a consequence, these people are considered to pose a high risk to financial institutions as well as Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs).

There are several types of Politically Exposed Persons:

  1. Domestic PEPs are those who hold important public positions in their own nation. On a domestic level, this group includes personalities such as the Head of State or Government or prominent executives.
  2. Foreign PEPs are individuals who hold significant public positions in other nations. In international contexts, it includes roles such as the Head of State or Government, prominent executives, and financial regulators.
  3. Individuals who have prominent public roles in international organisations are classified as international  organisation PEPs. It comprises high-ranking positions within the UN, NATO or similar bodies.

politically exposed persons

Additionally, PEP classification extends to family members of such individuals. If an individual is connected by blood or relation to a PEP, they too can be designated as a PEP.

Likewise, individuals who maintain close associations with PEPs, either through social or professional connections, also fall within the purview of PEPs.

It's important to note that identifying an individual as a PEP does not automatically imply their involvement in criminal activities. However, due to their elevated risk, financial institutions and DNFBPs need to exercise caution and implement appropriate measures when working with such clients.


The Essence of a PEP Check

So what is a politically exposed person check, anyway?

It's a meticulous process of due diligence that centres on evaluating a particular client category. These people, due to their significant public roles and access to power, are susceptible to activities like corruption, money laundering, and bribery. The objective of a PEP check is to ensure that transactions involving such persons undergo thorough scrutiny, reducing the risk of illicit activities going undetected.

The check involves a comprehensive assessment of the financial transactions and connections of these individuals. By analysing transactional patterns, sources of funds, and personal and business links, companies and regulatory bodies can uncover any irregularities or red flags that might suggest potential wrongdoing.


The Why Behind PEP Checks 

PEP screening plays a crucial role in mitigating risks. While not all people holding high posts are engaged in illicit activities, the potential for misuse of power and influence makes them inherently riskier counterparts in business transactions. By using PEP checkers, institutions can exercise prudence, ensuring that their dealings remain transparent and ethical.

Governments and the corporate sector assign a distinct significance to Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) within their endeavours to combat money laundering. The authentication of customers holds crucial importance in thwarting unlawful actions, including dealings with corrupted political figures and regimes under sanctions. Recognising the extent of this issue, nations are strengthening their regulations and imposing more substantial penalties for infractions.

In the previous year, global sanctions imposed on corporations due to their inadequate prevention of money laundering surged by more than 50%. This escalation significantly impacted sectors such as trading and banking, accumulating fines amounting to $6 billion and $2 billion respectively.

Beyond being a legal requirement, PEP checks are a testament to an institution's commitment to maintaining the highest standards of financial integrity. They serve as a deterrent against corruption and unethical conduct, reinforcing the foundation of trust upon which business relationships are built.


How to Check a Politically Exposed Person?

At present, UK companies adhere to a certain procedure concerning AML/PEP compliance. 

The process begins with the identification of people who hold prominent public positions, whether domestically, internationally, or within foreign jurisdictions. These people encompass a spectrum of roles, ranging from heads of state or government to senior executives and financial regulators. Family members and close associates of PEPs are also subjected to scrutiny due to their potential influence.

  1. When authenticating a client's politically exposed status, an employee is obligated to secure consent from higher-ranking executives before advancing with the business partnership. 
  2. They must also take reasonable steps to ascertain the source of wealth and funds. 
  3. Finally, the organisation must continuously supervise politically exposed person list searches. All current clients should be monitored.

For enterprises engaging with PEP clients, several significant points necessitate consideration. Firms must bear in mind that this status itself does not imply any criminal actions by the individual. Instead, it merely indicates the requirement for more meticulous examinations. 

Furthermore, companies should adopt a risk-based approach while interacting with these new clients. In certain instances, it might be rational to reduce monitoring efforts once a person steps down from their role. In contrast, the principle of "once a PEP - always a PEP" could be more suitable for others. While some individuals might be deemed suitable for collaboration following initial verification, others might demand intensified due diligence procedures.


Best Practices

Navigating the intricate terrain of PEPs and sanctions checks demands a holistic approach that goes beyond mere conformance to regulations. To prevent misuse of financial systems and mitigate threats, companies must embrace a set of measures that align with the evolving landscape of global compliance.

Continuous Monitoring: Staying One Step Ahead

The realm of PEPs and sanctions checks is dynamic, with new individuals gaining prominence and sanctions lists undergoing frequent updates. Embracing a strategy of regular monitoring is essential to ensure that your organisation remains vigilant against upcoming risks. Regularly reevaluating existing clients and monitoring their status can help identify any changes that might trigger further investigation.

Risk-Aligned Assessments: Tailoring Due Diligence

Recognising that not all PEPs pose the same level of risk is paramount. Employing a risk-based approach allows organisations to allocate resources effectively. Higher-risk persons warrant more comprehensive due diligence efforts, while those deemed lower risk can undergo streamlined procedures. By adopting this approach, businesses ensure that they are deploying their resources strategically and take proactive steps to tackle potential compliance concerns.

Transparent Documentation: Creating an Audit Trail

Thorough documentation forms the backbone of robust compliance. Detailed records of PEPs and sanctions checks, including the rationale behind decisions, provide a transparent audit trail. This documentation serves as evidence of your organisation’s commitment to ethical business practices and upholding the law. In the event of an inquiry, having a well-documented trail can showcase your diligence in maintaining compliance standards.

Ongoing Staff Training: Knowledge as the First Line of Defence

Educating your staff on the nuances of PEPs and sanctions checks is a cornerstone of effective compliance. Regular training sessions ensure that your team remains up to date with regulatory changes, evolving risk profiles, and the latest best practices. Well-informed employees act as the first line of defence, enabling your organisation to identify and address potential compliance issues proactively.

Leveraging Technology: The Power of Innovation

In today's digital age, technology plays a pivotal role in enhancing compliance processes. Leveraging compliance tools, like LIGA UNITED’s PEP check features, streamlines and automates the identification and assessment of PEPs and sanctions. Automated platforms harness real-time data updates and sophisticated algorithms, enabling organisations to conduct checks efficiently and accurately.

A Holistic Approach to Compliance

In the intricate realm of financial compliance, PEPs and sanctions checks best practices encompass a holistic approach. By integrating continuous monitoring, risk-aligned assessments, transparent documentation, ongoing staff training, and cutting-edge technology, businesses can establish a robust compliance framework. This framework not only safeguards against potential risks but also reinforces the reputation of the organisation as an ethical and responsible player in the global financial arena.


LIGA UNITED for PEP and Sanctions Screening

LIGA UNITED offers a comprehensive solution that amalgamates diverse data streams to authenticate the legitimacy of businesses. Within moments, you can access a range of details to ensure the credibility of your clients:

  • Comprehensive company dossier.
  • Beneficiary and officer information.
  • Company history.
  • Inclusion in sanction lists.
  • Trading activities and most recent financial performance.
  • Unfavourable media references.
  • Visual tool for uncovering business associations, even when buried within intricate intermediary chains
  • Monitoring features to keep your PEP database current.

With our analytical system, you can make well-informed choices while engaging with new enterprises and effortlessly keep tabs on any changes. Schedule your demo today to explore all the functionalities.


Final Thoughts

In the complex tapestry of modern finance, where risks are often lurking beneath the surface, PEP checks emerge as beacons of vigilance. They are a shield against potential threats that could compromise financial integrity. By conducting these checks, institutions uphold their commitment to ethical practices, regulatory compliance, and a financial landscape characterised by transparency and trust. 

IT solutions play a crucial role in financial compliance, allowing firms to search PEP registers effectively.

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Frequently asked questions.
What is a PEP search?

It is a process of evaluating if it's risky to provide services to a particular individual because they have a higher chance of obtaining their wealth illegally due to a high position.

How to check if someone is a politically exposed person?

The level of scrutiny varies for each case. Typically, it includes reviewing public records of individuals and their associations, and seeking clarification if specific transactions seem inconsistent.