6AMLD – What are the key changes to the Sixth Anti Money Laundering Directive?

In this blog, Fred McDowell, Senior Manager within the fincrime team in fscom, outlines the key changes in the 6th Anti Money Laundering Directive (6AMLD) and what it means for regulated firms in both the UK and the EU.

The European Union’s 6th Anti Money Laundering Directive “6AMLD”, came into effect for EU member states on 3 December 2020. Financial institutions in member states are required to implement 6AMLD by 3 June 2021.

The new directive aims to toughen criminal penalties and expand the scope of the existing legislation to better fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

With only five months to go until the deadline, now is the time for financial institutions to ensure they are familiar with the details of 6AMLD and prepare their compliance teams for the changes that it will introduce.

What is the position for the UK?

The UK Government has taken the decision to opt out of complying directly with 6AMLD. This is based on the Government’s view that existing UK legislation is already largely compliant with any of the requirements of the 6AMLD and additionally it is considered that in many cases, the UK has already gone further.

As a UK financial institution does that mean I have nothing to do?

No! Although the UK will not be incorporating the 6AMLD into UK legislation, financial institutions that are regulated and operate in Europe should review their positions to ensure they comply with the European anti money laundering directive.

What is 6AMLD about and are the key changes?

The first EU Anti Money Laundering Directive came into effect on the 10 June 1991. Over the subsequent AMLDs, the range of financial crimes captured under regulation widened and the directives also became applicable to lawyers, accountants, and real estate agents. The most recent 5AMLD saw AML regulation being introduced into the cryptocurrency sector

  1. A cornerstone of 6AMLD is the standardisation of the EU’s definition of Money Laundering across the EU. The 6AMLD details 22 predicate offences, the crimes that actually create sources of monies that need laundered. The 6AMLD sees cybercrime captured within the directive for the first time.
  2. “Aiding, Abetting, Inciting and Attempting to commit an offence of money laundering”, now constitutes money laundering itself. This is seen as a step aimed at deterring professional enablers, but also a step aimed at accomplices of money launderers who are often involved in complex money laundering schemes.
  3. Under the 6AMLD, criminal liability for money laundering has been extended to allow for prosecution and punishment of legal persons i.e. Companies and Partnerships. This directive places AML & CTF responsibilities on management employees along with employees separately.
  4. The 6AMLD introduces a minimum prison sentence of 4 years for money laundering offences, increased from the previous 1 year.
  5. Underpinning the 6AMLD is the drive for greater and more powerful EU Member State cooperation to tackle and prevent Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing.

Download a Copy of 6AMLD – 5 Key Changes Here


The above is a high-level precis of the key developments for obligated firms within EU member states. Such firms will need to take swift action to understand the adjusted regulatory scope that the 6AMLD will bring to some countries. Firms should consider the potential need for a refresh of their AML policy and procedures to incorporate this new scope. Training will be required for staff and it is likely that IT systems will need to be reviewed to ensure they support the firm’s AML program adequately in order that the firm meets its compliance to the 6AMLD.

Next steps for a financial institution in the UK?

As stated earlier, the UK Government has opted not to introduce the 6AMLD into formal legislation, as it is viewed that UK regulation is already at that level or slightly further. However, if you are a UK firm operating in an EU member state then you will need to consider the impact of the 6AMLD in the operations you undertake outside of the UK. Those operations undertaken in EU member states will come under the directive.

The implementation period is relatively short. The 3 June 2021 deadline is less than 6 months away. For UK firms with EU operations, they should review the 6AMLD in detail, and consider the impact it may have on such operations. The Enterprise-Wide Risk assessment is probably the most logical place to initiate your review, this will help identify risks you may have and this can be followed up by the very important review of existing controls to ensure compliance with the obligations of the 6AMLD.

2020 was a year like no other, the pandemic and Brexit have impacted every business. The EU has set AML & CTF as one of its top priorities and the impact of this directive and directives to follow are viewed by many as the EU very much striving to achieve much greater effectiveness across all its member states with a more standardised and coordinated approach to AML & CTF.

If you require any advice or guidance on the upcoming transposition of 6AMLD and how impact your firm, as well as any of your firms’ regulatory obligations, then please do not hesitate to contact me, or any of the team, at fscom.  

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