Smart contracts may be seen as a reliable way to come to terms with another party, especially a consumer, and have become the mainstream in present times. It can be considered a self-executing agreement with the terms of the contract, which is directly written into code. The downside? However smart it sounds, it may pose unique risks that may be detrimental to anti-money laundering regulations. This article addresses these risks and strategic, efficient ways to address and mitigate risks crucial to ensure the legitimacy and legality of smart contract-based transactions. Smart contracts reduce the risks of data tampering.


What are Smart Contracts?


A smart contract is a self-executing computer program or code that automates the enforcement, verification, or facilitation of a contract between two or more parties. These contracts are commonly connected with blockchain technology, notably on Ethereum platforms, but they can also be deployed on other decentralised platforms or through traditional centralised systems. In simple terms,


Common features of smart contracts include:


1. Code Based


Smart contracts are written in code and use programming languages such as Solidity for Enthereum-based contracts. The code contains the terms, conditions and rules of the contract.


2. Self-executing


Smart contracts automatically execute when predefined conditions are met after being deployed on a blockchain or a computing platform. This allows for non-interference from intermediaries.


3. Trustless


Smart contracts operate in a trustless environment, which means that participants do not need to trust each other or a central authority. Trust is placed in the code and the underlying blockchain network.


4. Immutable


Smart contracts are typically immutable once deployed on a blockchain, which means they cannot be changed or interfered with. This ensures that the contract's terms stay secure and unmodified.


5. Decentralised


Smart contracts are frequently associated with decentralised platforms such as Ethereum. They operate on a network of nodes, making them immune to censorship and single points of failure.


6. Transparency


The code of a smart contract is often visible on the blockchain, making the contract's terms and execution public and auditable to everyone.


7. Automated Execution


When certain criteria are met, smart contracts will execute predetermined actions or transactions. A payment may be released to a seller, for example, when a product is delivered and confirmed by a third party.


8. Cost-effective


Because smart contracts eliminate the need for middlemen such as attorneys or escrow services, they have the potential to lower the expenses associated with traditional contract execution.


9. A Diverse Range of Applications


Smart contracts have a wide range of applications, including finance (for loans, payments, and trade), supply chain management (for tracking and confirming the provenance of commodities), legal agreements (for wills and property transfers), and more.


Advantages of Smart Contracts In AML Compliance


Some of the disadvantages of smart contracts to AML compliance include:


a. Transparency


Because smart contracts frequently function on blockchain platforms, which provide an immutable and visible log of all transactions. It can aid  AML compliance by making financial transactions easier to track and audit.


b. Automated AML Checks


AML compliance checks, such as Know Your Customer (KYC) verification or transaction monitoring, can be implemented into smart contracts. This automation can assist in meeting AML regulations without depending only on manual operations. 


c. Immutable Records

Once a smart contract transaction is recorded on a blockchain, it is difficult to change or erase it. This immutability can be used as a trustworthy record for AML compliance, giving a secure audit trail. 


d. Efficiency


Smart contracts have the potential to cut operational costs for financial institutions by automating the enforcement of AML laws and reducing the time and effort necessary for compliance checks.

Disadvantages of Smart Contracts To AML Compliance


Some of the disadvantages of smart contracts to AML compliance include: 


i. Pseudonimity


While blockchain transactions are public, participants are frequently anonymous (represented by encrypted addresses). This can make it difficult to associate transactions with real-world individuals or companies, which is required for AML due diligence.


ii. Privacy Concerns


Public blockchains may expose transaction details to anyone, possibly jeopardising individuals' privacy. Balancing privacy concerns with AML standards is a difficult challenge that must be overcome.


iii. Complexity


AML compliance might be complicated by complex smart contracts with detailed conditions and various parties. It can be difficult to ensure that all players in a multi-party smart contract follow AML regulations.


iv. Cross-Border Transactions


Smart contracts can help with cross-border transactions that may include multiple regulatory jurisdictions with distinct AML standards. However, coordination among authorities becomes increasingly difficult.


v. Regulatory Clarity


In many jurisdictions, the regulatory framework governing smart contracts and digital assets is still emerging. This lack of transparency might make AML compliance efforts uncertain.


How To Mitigate Compliance Risks Associated With Smart Contracts


Some of the ways to mitigate compliance risks associated with smart contracts include:


1. Contract Governance and Smart Contract Oracles:


Implement governance mechanisms that allow for the modification of smart contracts when necessary to ensure compliance. Oracles can be used to feed real-world data into smart contracts for decision-making.


2. Jurisdictions and legal frameworks


Companies should investigate the usage of legal frameworks that support digital agreements and smart contracts, such as electronic signatures and contract recognition, in their jurisdiction.


3. Understand Applicable Regulations:


Companies and relevant personnel should stay on par with the regulatory environment in their jurisdiction and any international regulations that may apply to their operations. Regulations can vary significantly by region, and it is important that each region be understudied.


4. Transaction Monitoring


Systems for real-time transaction monitoring should be set up. Persons need to look for unusual or suspicious activity that will indicate money laundering as well as other illicit activities. There are a variety of digital tools and systems to utilise, and Youverify offers one such; it allows for continuous transaction monitoring and eliminates the fear of compromising compliance.


5. Enhanced Protection of Privacy


When companies or staff are working with sensitive consumer data, privacy-enhancing tools should be utilised. It is important that personal and confidential information is sufficiently safeguarded within the smart contract system.


6. Clear and Precise Terms Should Be Used


A core feature of smart contracts is their simplicity. Therefore, the terms and conditions should be stated clearly to further inform the parties to the agreement, which are the consumers. When terms are stated unclearly, it can lead to unintended compliance complications. The terms stated need to also align with the compliance regulations of the jurisdictions.


7. Trails of Evidence


Robust audit trails for smart contract transactions should be established and regular. These documents should be easily accessible for compliance and auditing purposes.


8. Security precautions:


Smart contract security should be made a top priority to avoid unauthorised access, code attacks, and vulnerabilities. It is critical to conduct regular code audits and security evaluations.


Bottom Line


While smart contracts may be an easy or seamless way to get consumers into an operative agreement, it is important to maintain clarity, transparency and adherence to compliance regulations. The dynamics of smart contracts might make AML compliance somewhat difficult.