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RBI Revises KYC Rules to Strengthen Money Laundering

By - Agnel Leona on November 11, 2023

The Know Your Customer (KYC) procedure is used to confirm new customers' identity and to combat unlawful activity including fraud and money laundering. KYC is carried out in compliance with Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations. Given the possibility of fraudulent or illicit financial activities, KYC and AML are essential to the banking industry. When combined, KYC and AML checks are essential for protecting financial institutions and companies against illegal activity while preserving the security of their clients' funds and the integrity of their operations. Therefore, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently made significant changes to its master directive on Know Your Customer (KYC) for regulated enterprises”.

Revised RBI KYC Rules:

The RBI modifications are consistent with improvements in the Prevention of Money Laundering guidelines and especially address the need to identify beneficial owners (BO) in the case of partnership firms.

The concept of "Ongoing Due Diligence" has been modified to require regulated entities (REs) to verify that transactions in the account suitable to the RE's understanding of the clients, their company, risk profile, and the source of assets or wealth.

A "Principal Officer" (PO) is now defined as an official at the management level appointed by the RE, highlighting their duty for providing relevant information.

The definition of Customer Due Diligence (CDD) includes not just identifying and validating the customer's identification, but also emphasizing the use of reliable and independent sources in this process.

Comprehensive Information on Business Relationship:  Regulated entities are now required to gather thorough information on the purpose and intended nature of the business relationship. This shift emphasizes the need of knowing the context of client engagement when evaluating Potential money laundering or illicit activities.

Preventing Misuse of Financial Systems for Illegal Activities: Identifying beneficial owners is critical for combatting money laundering and guaranteeing transparency. To prevent the misuse of financial systems for unlawful activities, regulated entities are required to verify the identification of the beneficial owner using credible and independent sources, in accordance with international standards.

Revised RBI KYC Rules Implications for Regulated Entities:

The modifications to the KYC guidelines have significant consequences for India's regulated businesses. The most significant considerations to contemplate are:

Enhanced Responsibility: Redefined Principal Officers provides senior management greater accountability for ensuring KYC compliance.

Comprehensive CDD: Regulated entities must collect more detailed information about the nature of the business relationship in order to improve risk assessment capabilities.

Vital BO Identification: Prioritising the recognition of beneficial owners is crucial for enhancing transparency/openness and combating financial crimes.

Continuous Monitoring: Regulated entities must maintain continuing vigilance, constant monitoring of transactions to detect suspicious or unusual activity.

Strengthening the Integrity of the Indian Financial System:

The updated KYC criteria issued by the RBI represent a significant step toward improving the integrity of the Indian banking system. These reforms assist to more robust anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing procedures by clarifying the role of Principal Officers, improving Customer Due Diligence, and concentrating on the identification of beneficial owners.

With this, banks and non-banking financial organizations (NBFCs) have been asked to take a risk-based approach to KYC updates on a regular basis.

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