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Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs)

20 Sep 2017

There is no single definition for a Politically Exposed Person (PEP), however, broadly speaking, it refers to those individuals who have or have had a high political profile, or hold or have held public office.


The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) defines a PEP as:


“An individual who has been entrusted with a prominent public function”[1]


The Dubai Financial Services Authority provides the following definition:


“A natural person (and includes, where relevant, a family member or close associate) who is or has been entrusted with a prominent public function, including but not limited to, a head of state or of government, senior politician, senior government, judicial or military official, ambassador, senior executive of a state owned corporation, or an important political party official, but not middle ranking or more junior individuals in these categories.”[2]


PEP status itself does not, of course, incriminate individuals or entities and there are many PEPs who do not abuse their position and will not represent any additional risk because of their status. It may, however, put a client into a higher risk category. 


PEPs can pose a higher AML risk to financial institutions who may be exposed to criminally derived money generated by corruption. 


Individuals holding senior positions who have, for example, authority over or access to government funds are exposed to the possibility of corruption and could misuse their power and influence for personal gain or advantage such as diverting funds for their own benefit or taking bribes.


Online sources report that Juthamas Siriwan, the senior government officer of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), responsible for disbursement of TAT funds, was sentenced in 2017, to 50 years in prison for corruption.  Juthamas Siriwan had accepted a bribe from US film makers Gerald and Patricia Green for around $1.8m to award them TAT contracts between 2002 and 2007 including the festival management contract for the Bangkok Film Festival, allowing the Greens to generate more than $13.5m in revenue. The money was transferred from the business bank accounts belonging to the Greens to various bank accounts in the UK, Jersey and Singapore set up in the name of Jittisopa Siriwan. Jittisopha Siriwan, the daughter of Juthamas was sentenced to 44 years in prison for assisting in hiding the money in overseas bank accounts. The Greens were convicted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.


More case information can be found here.


PEPs include:


Domestic PEPs

Those individuals holding prominent public positions within their home country, e.g. senior politician.


Foreign PEPs

Individuals holding prominent public functions in a foreign country e.g. senior executives of state owned entities.


Immediate family members or close associates

Family members of PEPs such as spouse or partner, children, parents and siblings.


PEPs may use family members or close associates to help them conceal funds or assets misappropriated from bribery, corruption or misuse of their position.


Close associates include individuals who hold joint beneficial ownership of a legal entity with a PEP e.g. a business partner.


James Ibori, a former governor of Delta State in Nigeria pleaded guilty in 2012 to stealing money from the state and laundering the funds. News articles report that the total sum embezzled could exceed $250m. His wife, sister, mistress and solicitor were convicted of money laundering.


In compliance with the DFSA Anti-Money Laundering, Counter-Terrorist Financing and Sanctions Module firms regulated by the DFSA must comply with the following:


Where a customer, or a beneficial owner of the customer, is a Politically Exposed Person, a Relevant Person must ensure that it:

- increases the degree and nature of monitoring of the business relationship, in order to determine whether the customer’s transactions or activities appear unusual or suspicious; and

- obtains the approval of senior management to commence a business relationship with the customer.


Useful sources of information:

Anti-Money Laundering, Counter-Terrorist Financing and Sanctions Module (AML) [VER13/02-17] -


FATF Guidance: Politically Exposed Persons (Recommendations 12 and 22)


Transparency International – Corruption Perceptions Index 2016 by country -


Know Your Country - Money Laundering Risk ranking table by country -



[1] FATF Guidance – Politically Exposed Persons

[2] DFSA Glossary GLO VER38_08-17