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Decoding Money Laundering: Exceptions and Defences Against Money Laundering (Part 4)

Money Laundering is a criminal activity that involves concealing the origins of illegally obtained money, typically by passing it through a complex sequence of banking transfers or commercial transactions. While money laundering is illegal in most jurisdictions, there can be exceptions or circumstances where individuals or entities may not be prosecuted or face lesser penalties. These exceptions and defences vary from different jurisdictions and are subject to change.

While stringent measures exist to combat money laundering, there are situations where exceptions to these regulations may be warranted. These exceptions are designed to balance the need for financial transparency with protecting individual rights and legitimate financial activities.


If a person/business demonstrates that they were unaware that the money they were dealing with was the proceeds of a criminal activity, they may have a defence. This is often referred to as ‘mistake of fact’. Mistake of fact can be an exception in reducing or eliminating the liability of the person.

In the realm of legal accountability, one cannot evade liability of intentional acts. A defendant facing criminal charges has the option to assert a lack of intent to commit the offense. This defence hinges on the occurrence of the criminal act as an outcome of a bona fide mistake of fact or a misapprehension aligned with the prevailing circumstances. It is crucial to note that this exception is permissible exclusively in cases involving a bona fide mistake of fact.


Also commonly referred to as the “duress” defence, this defence holds a unique position within the framework of money laundering cases. It provides individuals or entities facing money laundering charges with a potential legal avenue to mitigate or even absolve their culpability under certain circumstances.

Under the necessity defence, a defendant asserts that they were compelled to participate in money laundering activities due to imminent and grave threats or coercion by criminals. In essence, they argue that they had no reasonable alternative but to engage in these illicit financial transactions to protect themselves or others from harm.

For this defence to be successful, several key elements must typically be present:

  1. Imminent Threat: The defendant must demonstrate that they faced an imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death, or a similarly severe harm, if they did not comply with the criminal demands.
  2. No Reasonable Alternative: They must show that there was no reasonable alternative course of action available to them that would have allowed them to avoid the criminal activity and the associated threats.
  3. Proportionality: The defendant usually needs to establish that the harm they sought to avoid by engaging in money laundering was proportional to the harm caused by the criminal activity itself.



In the complex world of anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, where the goal is to detect and prevent illicit financial activities, one intriguing exception emerges – the “de minimis” rule. This legal provision recognizes that not all financial transactions warrant the same level of scrutiny. In some jurisdictions, small transactions falling below a specified threshold are exempt from rigorous AML reporting requirements.

At its core, the de minimis rule acknowledges that imposing extensive AML compliance measures on minor transactions may prove impractical and overly burdensome. Instead, it adopts a proportional risk assessment approach.

The underlying principle is that smaller transactions carry a lower potential for money laundering or illicit activities, and thus, they warrant reduced regulatory oversight.

Key Aspects of the De Minimis Rule:

  1. Threshold Limit: The rule hinges on the establishment of a threshold limit, below which transactions are exempt from comprehensive AML reporting. The specific limit can vary widely depending on the jurisdiction and can be periodically adjusted to align with economic conditions and risks.
  2. Efficiency and Cost Reduction: By exempting small transactions from onerous AML requirements, the de minimis rule promotes operational efficiency and cost savings. This is particularly advantageous for small businesses and individuals who engage in routine financial activities.
  3. Focus on High-Risk Transactions: Regulatory authorities can direct their resources and attention towards scrutinizing larger and potentially more suspicious transactions. This targeted approach maximizes the effectiveness of AML measures.
  4. Jurisdictional Variations: It’s crucial to recognize that the de minimis rule is not uniform across all jurisdictions. The threshold limits and the application of this exception can differ significantly, reflecting local economic conditions and money laundering risks.


The de minimis rule represents a pragmatic response to the challenges of balancing regulatory oversight with the efficient functioning of financial transactions. It recognizes that not all financial activities pose equal risks and aims to strike a practical equilibrium in the AML regulatory framework. For businesses and individuals navigating the intricacies of AML compliance, understanding the de minimis rule is essential, as it can have a significant impact on their daily financial operations.

Please note that this article does not constitute express or implied legal advice, whether in whole or in part. For a Consultation or if you simply require more information, email us at


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