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Anti-Money Laundering in the Digital Era: Building trust and ethics in AI to combat fraud and economic crimes


24 Jan 2020


Euro & Finance

EU experts discussed how Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and robotic process automation (RPA) can help transform the fight against money laundering, fraud and economic crimes, stressing the need for international cooperation and collaboration  at a joint ACCA-EY-Visa conference in Brussels.

The phenomena of fraud, including payment fraud, and economic crimes are not new ones — far from it. However, a new generation of very creative criminals is now benefitting from the rapid development and spread of digital and cyber technologies: it is a globalised, borderless and intensely complex problem, further exacerbated by the rapid evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT).

AI, ML and RPA can help transform the fight against money laundering, fraud and economic crimes, but in creating the ethical and regulatory framework around these issues, it is crucial to strike a balance in line with existing legislation, without affecting the ability to actively counter fraud in real-time nor also stifle innovation. It is not an easy task, and it’s one that needs open debate.

With this in mind, ACCA, EY and Visa organised a thought-provoking conference, during which keynote speakers and panelists - for the European Commission: Pēteris Zilgalvis, Head of Unit Digital Innovation and Blockchain at DG CONNECT and Andrei Stefanuc, Team Leader, Anti-money laundering policy at DG FISMA; Richard Campbell, Head of Special Investigations at the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Crime Operations Department; Marja Laitinen, Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit lead for EMEA and Fabian Vandereydt from FabianVDR Advisory Services-  addressed the issue of Anti-Money Laundering in the digital era, through the prism of building trust and ethics in AI to combat fraud and economic crimesIt was also the launching event for the new  joint ACCA and EY report on Economic crime in a digital age,  focusing on financial aspects of criminal activity and their link to advances in data exchange.

All speakers agreed that  to combat fraud and economic crimes in the digital era,  international cooperation and collaboration are  essential, highlighting also the crucial role of trust and enforcement.

Jeanne Boillet, Global Assurance Innovation Leader, EY opened the debate:  “Combining the key benefits of AI with human insights and Forensics Data Analytics will be a real game-changer in the future. In coming years, AI will be a vital weapon in our armory in the war against economic crime. But for this vision to have a real impact, a comprehensive approach across people, process and technology is key.”

Jessica Lennard, Senior Director, Global Data and AI Initiatives, Visa, who moderated the panel discussion said: “AI and ML are driving an increase in large-scale global industrialised economic crime. However, the international community of businesses, regulators and law enforcement are also using these advanced technologies to tackle the growing threat, with cross-border coordination and an intense focus on investment and innovation”.

Luděk Niedermayer, MEP insisted that the latest revision of the Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5th) and its transposition into national law of Member States is just the beginning. “Daily efforts are necessary to reduce financial crime. Real and effective enforcement is still a weak spot of the European Union, but this is the deciding factor in our success. We should not be satisfied with being reasonably good in some parts – we need to be good in all of them. We also need to move forward in the area of data sharing, as progress is impossible without effective digital communication and standardisation of data”, MEP Niedermayer added.

It was also stressed that AI is just a technological enabler, and will continue to be only one dimension of fighting fraud which can complement existing analytics teams, supervised machine learning, processes and tools in fraud detection and combat.  The vital importance of the human factor was also highlighted: we will still need people to be trained, and supporting processes, policies and frameworks. Any use of AI must also  be underpinned by ethical values and practices, and economic crime is no exception. Privacy must be balanced with security, fairness and transparency if consumer trust is to be upheld.

Jason Piper, Head of Tax and Business Law at ACCA, echoed this and concluded: “Our Economic Crime in a Digital Age report finds that people, processes and governance remain key. Every successful crime starts with individual decisions, whether to deliberately break the rules, or to place trust in information that isn’t trustworthy.

And whether it’s in double checking who really sent a payment instruction, or teaching humans how to properly use AI, being sure that the humans in the chain have the right attitudes, the right rules to follow, and the right tools to counter the advances in criminal behaviour are the most important elements to keep the impacts of economic crime to a minimum”.


About ACCA

For media enquiries, ;  Twitter @ACCAViews

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

ACCA supports its 219,000 members and 527,000 students (including affiliates) in 179 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 110 offices and centres and 7,571 Approved Employers worldwide, and 328 approved learning providers who provide high standards of learning and development.

Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

About EY

EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. Information about how EY collects and uses personal data and a description of the rights individuals have under data protection legislation is available via For more information about our organization, please visit

About Visa

Visa Inc. is the world’s leader in digital payments. Our mission is to connect the world through the most innovative, reliable and secure payment network - enabling individuals, businesses and economies to thrive. Our advanced global processing

network, VisaNet, provides secure and reliable payments around the world, and is capable of handling more than 65,000 transaction messages a second. The company’s relentless focus on innovation is a catalyst for the rapid growth of digital commerce on any device for everyone, everywhere. As the world moves from analog to digital, Visa is applying our brand, products, people, network and scale to reshape the future of commerce.

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