£1m cash payments “an open invitation to money launderers”

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Durham University accepted over one million pounds in cash for tuition and accommodation fees over the past ten years. The cash payments expose the University to the risk of being used as part of money laundering schemes.

Following a story by The Times, Palatinate made Freedom of Information requests for data giving the amount of cash paid to Durham University made by students over the past ten years.

Over the last decade Durham University accepted £805,164 in cash payments for tuition fees and £216,831 from accommodation fees.

In February, The Times described the acceptance of payment using banknotes from overseas students as “an open invitation to money launderers”. In an editorial, the paper said that “unlike accountancy and financial firms, universities are not automatically subject to money laundering regulations requiring enhanced due diligence”.

A breakdown of the data by country revealed that cash was paid by students from 38 countries in total. The top three biggest sources of cash payments were China, Turkey and Pakistan. Students from China were by far the largest source, representing about half of all cash payments over the period.

Physical cash payments made for tuition and accommodation fees over the past ten years according to Durham University data

A report by the National Crime Agency in 2019 revealed that Chinese students in the UK were at risk of being targeted for use by money launderers.

Professor Claire O’Malley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global) at Durham University, told Palatinate: “Our international students form a vital part of the Durham University community and are integral to our position as a globally networked university.

“Each year a small number of students do opt to pay their fees in cash. Our procedures regarding the acceptance of cash are in keeping with the UK Money Laundering Regulations, which require that we keep a record of all single transactions in cash of £2,000 or more. As per the regulations, a form is also completed to detail the cash received.

“Durham is proud to be a global University and we are committed to welcoming students from all countries to benefit from, and contribute to, our world-leading teaching and research.”

Image credit: Getty Images

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