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There have been several high-profile instances recently where big banks have chosen to exit relationships with so-called "politically exposed persons", due to their antimoney-laundering obligations. Money laundering is the process whereby criminals take the proceeds of crimes (such as fraud, theft or corruption) and try to reintroduce these into the financial system so they can use the money for ordinary, legitimate purposes. Antimoney-laundering obligations describe the measures put in place to try to detect and prevent this from happening. In this article, we do not tackle any of the specific cases that have recently made headlines, but instead, analyse some of the broader issues that affect SA’s big banks, to try to understand why they are getting picky with politically exposed persons. Below, we outline four factors that help explain the banks’ tough stance. Banks are central to the flow of money in SA and as such, are at a high risk of being used by criminals who wish to launde...

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