A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 12, 2019, on page 4.
BEIRUT: Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said Friday that Banque du Liban and financial authorities had frozen and lifted banking secrecy on suspicious accounts involved in corruption and embezzlement. Speaking at the opening of an ICC-FraudNet conference, Salameh said BDL had been able to detect and uncover several corruption-related cases thanks to authorities’ supervision over the banking sector and with the latter’s cooperation.
“As a result of these efforts, funds were frozen and the banking secrecy obligation was lifted on numerous pertinent bank accounts vis-a-vis the judiciary in order to take the appropriate legal measures. Moreover, a couple of banks operating in Lebanon were subject to penalties, and thereafter an official administrator was appointed by the Central Bank to manage these banks, as a result of their involvement in facilitating the channeling of funds derived from corruption crimes,” Salameh said. He did not identify the two banks.
“The negative impact of corruption and fraud on societies, particularly in a country like Lebanon, are immense. They could obstruct economic growth, decrease public funds and, as a result, public confidence,” he warned.
Salameh said Lebanon acceded to the U.N. Convention Against Corruption in April 2009 with the extensive involvement of BDL in its negotiation due to the distinctive nature of the Lebanese banking system, in particular the banking secrecy obligation.
“Concurrently, due to such secrecy requirements and to the fact that there is a strong link between corruption and other financial crimes, namely money laundering, the mandate of the Lebanese Special Investigation Commission, headed by myself as the governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, was extended to cover corruption-related issues,” Salameh said.
He indicated that to this end, BDL had issued a set of regulations for the sector, including setting standards on beneficial ownership transparency, to assist in identifying beneficial owners of legal entities and trusts.
“We are also committed to ensure that our banks apply the highest international best practices in conducting their due diligence on the management structures and sources of funds of their clients. Banks operating in Lebanon are continuously encouraged to strengthen their compliance systems and have the necessary resources to identify any suspicious patterns of fraud or corruption,” Salameh said.
He said the government was finalizing its national anti-corruption strategy, which includes the creation of a national commission for fighting corruption that will create awareness and follow up on the fight for eliminating corruption while liaising with the judicial branch of the government.
Joseph Torbey, chairman of the World Union of Arab Bankers and chairman and general manager of Credit Libanais Group, highlighted the conference’s importance.
“Roughly a third of financial organizations in the Middle East, surveyed by PricewaterhouseCoopers have reported being subjected to cases of fraud between 2016 and 2018, with costs ranging from $100,000 to $50 million per organization. More than half of fraud cases in the MENA region were attributed to asset misappropriation, mainly by employees or senior managers, with cybercrime accounting for another third, and the rest credited to procurement, bribery and corruption,” Torbey said.
He added that compliance budgets in the MENA region had now matched global figures, with more set to be spent in the future.
“Many countries in the region have established robust financial regulatory authorities, such as the Dubai Financial Services Authority or the Financial Services Regulatory Authority in the United Arab Emirates, and the Special Investigation Commission in Lebanon, and have also set laws aimed at defining and penalizing financial crimes, notably in the UAE and Lebanon,” he said.
Torbey stressed that fighting corruption went beyond reforms.
“Investing in education and spreading transparency and anti-fraud awareness is an important means to turn the tide against corruption,” Torbey said.
Police in the UK are seeking help as Albanian gangs have turned to cryptocurrency for money laundering operations. The gangs are major players in the UK’s cocaine market, which law enforcement estimates generates around US$6.23 billion [AU$9.18 billion] in sales per year.
Turning to technology
Law enforcement in the UK say that the Albanian gangs, who they describe as being very sophisticated and having close ties to Colombian drug cartels, are using technology to further their criminal enterprises. Police say the gangs are now using cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, to launder their illicit proceeds from the narcotics trade due to the decentralized nature of virtual currencies, the ease of cross-border payments, and the perceived anonymity of transactions.
The gangs are even using social media, such as Instagram, to aid in recruiting new members, and some gang members are even posting from their jail cells. This increased use of innovative technologies is making the work of law enforcement in the UK harder, says Peter Goodman, the head of organized crime for the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the head constable of Derbyshire. Goodman says law enforcement has to come up with new ways to tackle organized crime and their use of the latest technology, such as cryptocurrency.
However, police are finding ways to catch up to their criminal counterparts in the technological arena.
Michael J Oghia, a Balkans-based internet governance consultant, says, “As technology is evolving, so are the ways how transactions can be tracked. For instance, all transactions are recorded on the publicly accessible blockchain ledger.” “By combining those transaction details with other information and analytical techniques, law-enforcement agencies and cybersecurity experts are finding ways to trace such actors – though it’s still a slow process,” he adds.
Police enjoy some success
Despite the difficulty presented by the use of new technology, police have been successful in shutting down quite a few cryptocurrency money laundering operations. Back in May, Europol and Spanish police shut down a criminal gang that offered money laundering services via cryptocurrency to other criminals.
The gang used multiple bank accounts and two Bitcoin ATMs to launder money from criminal outfits, and police found 20 hot wallets and 4 cold wallets that contained more than US$10 million. A 60-year old man was arrested and charged in July for trying to launder a whopping $19 million in Bitcoin that he gained from selling narcotics on the infamous Silk Road marketplace.
In July 2018, a joint operation between police in Spain and Colombia arrested 23 individuals from two separate gangs that were involved in cryptocurrency money laundering.
In the last few weeks, two more cryptocurrency money laundering operations were busted by law enforcement.
Kunal Kalra pleaded guilty in a Los Angeles court for using cryptocurrency to launder as much as $25 million for drug dealers and other criminals by using a Bitcoin ATM and a network of bank accounts using fraudulent names and business entities.
A Colorado court sentenced Emilio Testa to a year and a day in prison for offering undercover police his cryptocurrency money laundering services for cash they told him was gained from dealing in narcotics.
-Armor security report finds criminals are laundering cash for bitcoin in dark web portals.
-Some criminals accepting as low as twelve cents on the dollar in bitcoin to move the funds.
The second annual research report by cloud security provider Armor shows that criminals are selling cash for bitcoin on darkweb marketplaces at a substantially reduced rate.
Pennies on the Dollar Money Laundering
According to the report, Armor researchers examined 12 different hacker marketplaces over the course of five months and determined that cash was being sold for bitcoin at pennies on the dollar. The report states that darkweb markets are thriving despite the continued crackdown on their existence.
More concerning for crypto users was the discovery that criminals were using bitcoin to aid in laundering stolen funds.
The report says: "One of the cleverest services spotted was where a criminal can pay a seller $800 in Bitcoin and have $10,000 transferred to a bank account of their choice or wired to them via Western Union, a seamless turn-key money laundering service".
While 12 cents on the dollar may appear a poor exchange for illicitly obtained funds, the Armor report claims it poses an attractive avenue for less experienced criminals.
Chris Hinkley, head of Armor’s TRU team, explained, For those scammers who don’t possess the technical skills and a robust money mule network to monetize online bank account or credit card credentials, this is an offer that can be very attractive...this clever service gives them an additional channel for monetizing the large amounts of financial data available on the underground.
While crypto scams and laundering reports have been common over the years, Armor’s report reveals the extent to which criminals are willing to go to move illicitly obtained funds.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said that Europe should consider its own “public digital currency” that could challenge Facebook’s Libra. The minister’s remarks — the latest in a series of vocal misgivings about the social media giant’s cryptocurrency plans — were reported by Reuters on Sept. 13.
At a meeting of EU finance ministers in Helsinki, Le Maire told reporters that he would be discussing the potential for a European public digital currency with his counterparts on the continent next month.
He also reiterated his concerns that the proposed Libra stablecoin could pose risks for consumers, financial stability and even “the sovereignty of European states.” Le Maire urged the European bloc to push ahead with its work to cut the cost of cross-border payments.
As Reuters notes, real-time payments in the eurozone have been available since 2017, but the scheme has only drawn participation from roughly half of the bloc’s banks. Moreover, the project is currently largely focused on domestic payments.
Europe in limbo
Aside from these proposals, Le Maire said that the bloc needed to rethink its approach toward regulating cryptocurrencies at an EU level.
Repeating his calls to refuse to authorize Libra’s launch in the European Union, Le Maire argued that the current state of limbo — in which regulators continue to debate whether to regulate cryptocurrencies as securities, payment services or currencies — must be resolved through the creation of a robust and common framework.
Given this legal uncertainty, a spokeswoman for the European Commission told Reuters that “with the publicly available information on Libra, it is currently not possible to say which exact EU rules would apply.”
France vows to block Libra development
As reported just yesterday, Le Maire has forcefully said that lingering concerns about Facebook’s project mean that “in these conditions, we cannot authorize the development of Libra on European soil.”
He has previously said that he would ask for guarantees from Facebook that Libra would not be exploited for illicit activities.
While many regulatory and legal issues are still resolved, the EU’s Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive — which came into force in July 2018 — has revised the legal framework that EU financial watchdogs can use to mitigate the risks of money laundering and terrorism financing in the cryptocurrency sector.
On 3 October 2019, Europol’s Executive Director, Catherine De Bolle launched CONAN (Connecting Analysts), the new platform for intelligence analysis. The platform was launched in the margins of the European Police Chiefs Convention, the most significant law enforcement convention in the EU.
Through the secure, web-based CONAN platform, criminal analysts from EU Member States, third partner countries and relevant partner agencies will be able to elaborate and share guidelines, methodologies, training materials, analytical tools and additional resources.
CONAN will feature two sections on operational and strategic analysis where law enforcement experts from Member States and beyond can exchange their expertise, interact with each other and work towards improving intelligence analysis.
A dedicated sub-platform will be devoted to facilitating knowledge-sharing solely among EU law enforcement professionals. In the near future, a sub-platform will also allow EU Member State law enforcement analysts to develop and co-create analytical tools.
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Banking scandals and growing crypto currency use have prompted European Union finance ministers to consider setting up a bloc-wide supervisor on money laundering at a meeting next week.
EU regulators were caught off guard last year by one of the largest money-laundering scandals ever, involving some 200 billion euros ($219 billion) in suspicious payments, between 2007 and 2015, through Danske Bank’s tiny Estonian branch.
Despite several anti-money laundering overhauls, the bloc remains vulnerable, mostly because rules are applied less strictly in some of the 28 EU states, the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, said in a report in July.
The bloc’s finance ministers will therefore discuss at a meeting on Oct. 10 whether a single supervisor could be a solution, a document published on Wednesday said.
“How should issues related to inadequate supervision be addressed? Is the creation of a new EU body a valid way forward, or is any existing body the best option?” the Finnish presidency of the EU said in the paper that will guide the debate.
Despite criminal organizations frequently laundering the proceeds of their illegal activities abroad, the fight against financial crime is mostly dealt with by national authorities.
Cooperation between domestic supervisors has so far been insufficient, the commission said in July, strengthening the case for an EU-wide supervisor.
Ministers will also discuss whether a new overhaul of the rules is necessary and whether it would need to address risks not only in financial firms but also in other sectors at risk of money laundering, from artwork to football.
Risks in crypto and digital currencies will also need to be tackled, the head of the Belgian financial intelligence force, Philippe De Koster, said at a conference in Brussels.
Despite new EU rules to reduce risks on exchange platforms, most EU states have no legislation in place to counter money laundering through crypto assets, he added.
“We are often blind,” he told Reuters, warning of dangers when cryptocurrencies are converted into euros or dollars, but also when they are exchanged between two virtual currencies.
The finance ministers will also discuss how to improve cooperation with countries outside the EU in tackling money laundering and the funding of terrorism.
The commission has proposed largely aligning the EU blacklisting of risky states to procedures at the Financial Action Task Force, the international body that sets criteria on identifying non-cooperative jurisdictions.
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The US Treasury Department’s Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, Marshall Billingslea, met with senior Kurdistan Region officials on Wednesday to discuss cooperation to prevent and dry financial sources aiding terrorist organizations in the region.
Billingslea met separately with Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani as well as Prime Minister Masrour Barzani in Erbil.
During his meeting with the Kurdish president, the two sides discussed the complete elimination of the so-called Islamic State, and other terrorist groups and extremist ideologies in the region, a statement on President Barzani’s press office read.
“They stressed that in order to completely eradicate ISIS extremist and terrorist ideologies, the financial resources of ISIS should be eliminated and their financial activities must be blocked,” the statement added.
President Barzani and Billingslea also discussed the relationship between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq, “foreign investment opportunities, and developments in the energy and banking sectors in Kurdistan and Iraq.”
In a separate meeting, Billingslea met with Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani. US Consul-General in Erbil Steven Fagin was also present.
“The Prime Minister and the US officials discussed the government’s efforts to grow and diversify the Kurdistan Region’s economy,” a statement on the KRG’s website read.
“The Assistant Secretary expressed support for the Kurdistan Regional Government’s modernizing reforms and welcomed the progress it had already made,” the statement added.
In turn, Prime Minister Barzani urged Billingslea “to support the new government’s efforts to develop the Kurdistan Region’s financial sector and to connect its banks to international markets.”
On Erbil-Baghdad relations, Prime Minister Barzani updated the US officials on the KRG’s “ongoing dialogue” with the Iraqi government, affirming the new Kurdish government’s “commitment to establishing a peaceful and stable relationship with Baghdad, underpinned by the Kurdistan Region’s rights under the constitution.”
Billingslea’s visit was a rare one, but the Kurdish leadership has in the past welcomed the opportunity to coordinate with the US Treasury Department in combatting terrorism financing.
The meetings also come as Islamic State remnants continue to launch insurgency attacks in Iraq despite their military defeat which the federal government declared in late 2017.
Monrovia – Liberia’s Financial Intelligence Unit has held a stakeholders’ validation of three Legal Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) instrument in Monrovia in order to avoid being downgraded by at a regional summit expected in Dakar, Senegal this November.
GIABA is an institution of the Economic Community of West African States responsible for facilitating the adoption and implementation of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Financing of Terrorism (CFT) mechanisms in West Africa.
The Inter-Government Action Group against money laundering in West Africa (GIABA) conducted a Mutual Evaluation of Liberia’s Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime in November 2010, pointing out significant deficiencies in Liberia’s efforts to curb the crimes.
Since then, Liberia is yet to address a significant component of these deficiencies.
Speaking at the stakeholders’ validation meeting at the Central Bank of Liberia on Tuesday September 24, 2019, the Assistant Director for Corporate Affairs at the Financial Intelligence Unit, Bobby Quiwu Harris, said during the final report of the GIABA 30th Technical Commission/Plenary meeting held in November 2018 in Banjul, The Gambia, Liberia was admonished to make progress in resolving its deficiencies.
According to the FIU Assistant Director, enactment of the Financial Intelligence Agency Act; and the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, Preventive Measures and Proceeds of Crime Act are some of the deficiencies yet to be resolved.
He said these regional laws must be enforced to tackle money laundering and terrorism in the region incluidng Liberia.
RIYADH: The Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) has held its third monthly symposium in Riyadh, directed at combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
The symposium hosted the Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency Ahmed Al-Khulaifi, who is chairman of the standing committee for combating money laundering.
The meeting, “Fundamentals of Building National Strategy and Plan of Action in the Field of Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing,” was attended by representatives of the 41-member countries of the IMCTC alliance.
Combating the financing of terrorism is one of the four domains of the coalition, besides its intellectual, media and military objectives.
Strasbourg, 25.09.2019 - In its annual report for 2018, published today, the Council of Europe anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing body MONEYVAL calls on states to ensure that they have appropriate measures in place to combat “dirty money”.
The impact by economic crime, organised criminal groups and terrorism continued to be felt in Europe and other parts of the world during 2018. In the report, the Chair of MONEYVAL, Elzbieta Frankow-Jaskiewicz, underlines that, in light of the increased risks, it is urgent that countries and territories in Europe and beyond apply robust measures against money laundering and terrorist financing.
The Chair highlights a number of initiatives that MONEYVAL carried out in 2018 to address several pressing challenges. These include the need to raise the awareness and effectiveness of prosecutors and judges in the repression of money laundering, associated offences and terrorist financing; as well as to step up efforts to combat the financial flows associated with slavery, human trafficking and forced labour.
Another priority for MONEYVAL is tackling the negative consequences of the so-ca.lled “de-risking”, a phenomenon by which in recent years global banks have cut business relationships with foreign banks to avoid (rather than to manage) possible money laundering and terrorist financing risks. Consequently, the money laundering and terrorist financing risks have increased in certain countries.
In 2018 MONEYVAL continued its role as an international player in the global network of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing bodies led by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The Committee actively monitored 24 countries and territories through the adoption of mutual evaluation reports or follow-up reports.
WIESBADEN, Germany – International experts on the illicit trade of cultural property have met to boost interagency cooperation both at the national and international level.
INTERPOL - With the illicit trafficking of cultural property a serious transnational crime affecting all regions, more than 90 national and international experts from 23 countries in Europe, the Middle East and United States met in Wiesbaden at the European Working Meeting on Art Crime and Illicit trafficking in Stolen Cultural Property.
Hosted at the headquarters of the German Federal Criminal Police (BKA), the three-day (10 – 12 September) meeting was also attended by representatives from the Council of the European Union, EUROPOL, ICCROM, OSCE, UNESCO, UNITAD, UNODC, WCO and the Monitoring Team of the UN Security Council (UN SC).
With the BKA’s Stefan Michel (Criminal Director, Department of Serious and Organized Crime) highlighting the importance of addressing the continuing looting of cultural goods in crisis regions, participants discussed the involvement of terrorist groups in the looting and smuggling of cultural items, especially from conflict zones, with particular focus at the meeting given to follow-up actions relating to UN SC Resolutions 2199/2015 and 2347/2017.
These call for countries to take appropriate steps to prevent the trade in stolen cultural property, and specifically the use of INTERPOL’s global policing capabilities, such as its Stolen Works of Art database.
In this respect, experts from Iraq, Syria and Yemen provided updates on cultural heritage crimes in their respective countries.
With police operations both at the regional and global level a fundamental way to tackle crimes related to cultural property, INTERPOL leads and organizes major law enforcement operations – such as the Pandora and joint police-customs Athena operations. It also provides the only international police database containing information on stolen works of art.
Corrado Catesi, Coordinator of INTERPOL’s Works of Art unit, explained that no country was immune to cultural theft and trade: “Our collective focus must be to protect heritage from exploitation and destruction. Establishing specialized police units with an operational stolen works of art database should be at the heart of an effective national strategy.”
INTERPOL also collects intelligence and analyzes the latest cultural property crime trends to assist its member countries.
During the event, INTERPOL officers presented the latest data its Works of Art unit gathered on crimes committed in 2018. That year, INTERPOL reported worldwide more than 8,500 offences, with some 91,000 cultural objects stolen and almost 223,000 objects seized by law enforcement agencies.
The issues of money laundering and fake cultural items, and the importance of protecting cultural property after natural disasters and armed conflicts, also topped the agenda at the meeting.
Europol’s EC3 signs Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with global non-profit dedicated to reducing cyber-risk in the financial system through intelligence sharing.
The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) and Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) today announced a partnership to combat cybercrime within the European financial services sector. The purpose of the MOU will be to facilitate and enhance the law enforcement response to financially motivated cybercriminals targeting banks and other financial institutions through a symbiotic intelligence-sharing network.
The important partnership is a response to the acceleration of sophisticated cyber-attacks in recent years affecting numerous countries and jurisdictions at once. The MOU will help foster a pan-European approach to intelligence sharing, ensuring the cross-border cooperation necessary for the detection, prevention and reduction of cybercrime. In addition to facilitating information sharing, the agreement will also enable education and resilience through training exercises and informational summits.
“Cybercriminals are increasingly targeting financial services and institutions to the cost of citizens and businesses across the EU,” said Steven Wilson, Head of EC3. “It is crucial to bring key stakeholders around the table to improve the coordinated response; this MOU with FS-ISAC builds a platform to allow us to do exactly that.”
FS-ISAC is a close partner of EC3 and an active member of the Advisory Group on Financial Services, a public-private partnership initiative, which provides a platform for financial services organisations and law enforcement to share information as well as to agree on joint operations and awareness campaigns.
“Accelerated global digitalisation combined with the growing sophistication of cybercriminals demands a more concerted approach from both the public and private sector,” said Ray Irving, Managing Director of FS-ISAC. “Through a collaborative peer-to-peer network, FS-ISAC and EC3 are enabling intelligence sharing to better safeguard the global financial system.”
ABOUT THE EUROPEAN CYBERCRIME CENTRE (EC3)
The European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), set up in 2013, is the response in the EU to protect European citizens, business and governments from online crime. With more than 60 experts working on a daily basis, EC3 is involved in hundreds of high-level online operations providing with data analysis and on-the-spot support to the Member States. Each year, the European Cybercrime Centre publishes the Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA), its flagship strategic report on key findings and emerging threats and developments in cybercrime.
The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) is an industry consortium dedicated to reducing cyber-risk in the global financial system. Serving financial institutions and in turn their customers, the organisation leverages its intelligence platform, resiliency resources, and a trusted peer-to-peer network of experts to anticipate, mitigate and respond to cyber threats. FS-ISAC has nearly 7,000-member firms with users in more than 70 countries. Headquartered in the United States, the organisation has offices in the United Kingdom and Singapore.
Second INTERPOL Global Conference on Illicit Drugs highlights sophistication of organized crime groups.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa – In a bid to tackle the illicit drug trade head-on, 400 experts from 100 countries representing anti-narcotics agencies, international and regional organizations have called for increased information sharing and cooperation via INTERPOL.
Underlining an ever-increasing presence of synthetic drugs and the sophistication with which organized crime groups are operating, the second INTERPOL Global Conference on Illicit Drugs focused on existing and emerging concealment methods, trends and routes, and the convergence with other activities such as money laundering, financial crime and cybercrime.
The three-day (17 – 19 September) conference was hosted in close collaboration with the South African Police Service.
In his opening remarks, South Africa’s Police Minister Bheki Cele said the world needed a proactive approach in the war against drugs. “Our communities are at the grip of those who use drugs, those who sell drugs and those who produce them, and our communities have had enough. As the men and women of the law, we must be a step ahead of syndicates and drug cartels,” Mr. Cele told delegates at the conference.
Kim Jong Yang, President of INTERPOL, said: “The landscape of the global illicit drug trade is complex, rapidly evolving and facilitated by technology such as encrypted communications software and the darknet. It is said, ‘the best way out of a problem is through’, and we will achieve success with the determined resolve of all law enforcement.”
As part of its conclusions, participants recognized the importance of INTERPOL’s global policing capabilities, including I-24/7, its secure communications system, its Drugs Analysis File and capacity building programmes. The Relief database was also highlighted as a key tool to identify the origin and routes of compressed drug deliveries and shipments through an automated comparative analysis of the tool-marks, logos and chemical compositions of drug packages.
Sharing intelligence, building investigative capacity
With enhanced information sharing central to prevention and investigation efforts, delegates examined case studies from around the world, which consistently pointed to new, transnational interactions between organized crime groups. As a global, neutral platform, INTERPOL is uniquely placed to work with its 194 member countries and make connections that might otherwise take months, or even years.
INTERPOL recently deployed an Incident Response Team (IRT) to Guinea Bissau, in response to one of the country’s largest ever cocaine seizures. The IRT focused on forensic drug analysis via INTERPOL’s Relief database, in addition to coordinating investigative leads with Brazil and Colombia, and extracting electronic data for analysis.
Since January, INTERPOL has deployed six specialized teams at the request of national authorities, showing the increased number of seizures globally and the need for international cooperation.
Australia passed a motion that's led to the establishment of a committee that will inquire and report on fintech and regtech opportunities, barriers, and future trends, according to the Financial Standard. The year-long review will evaluate how competitive Australia is in terms of fintech and regtech, and report back to the Senate in October 2020.
Fintech adoption has been slow in the region. FinTech Australia's general manager, Rebecca Schot-Guppy, said there's still a lack of awareness in the Australian community about fintech companies. In fact, the country's fintech adoption rate lies at 58%, which is 6 percentage points below the global average of 64%, per EY.
This might have to do with the big four banks — ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB, and Westpac — still holding 95% of the banking market in the country. Moreover, investments in Australian fintechs stood at a five-quarter low in Q2, when fintechs only secured $11 million in funding, down from $131 million in the previous quarter, per CB Insights.
But we think this is about to change, as recent developments coupled with the government's inquiry can help spur fintech growth.
-There have been some significant developments in the Australian fintech space. The country recently passed Customer Data Right (CDR) legislation to provide the legal framework for its open banking regime, which will allow consumers to share their financial data with third-party providers and increase competition in the country. Additionally, challenger bank 86 400 fully rolled out its transaction and savings accounts across the country earlier this week, and competitor Xinja was recently granted a banking license, next to other neobanks Volt, Judo, and 86 400. Foreign players are also interested in the country: UK neobank Revolut released a beta version of its services in Australia in June, for example. Hence, it seems that the country's finance industry is due to be shaken up by challengers.
-Australia's inquiry into the fintech sector will likely help inform and shape policies and regulations related to the industry. Regulators and government entities in other countries have proven the success of a supportive fintech strategy: The UK's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) are prime examples that a forward-thinking fintech strategy is essential for building a strong industry — and both countries are fintech leaders in their respective regions.
New anti-money laundering legislation – 6AMLD – is set to be implemented across the European Union (EU) by 2020, requiring regulated entities to make significant changes to the way they vet and monitor their customers. Jane Jee, CEO of Kompli-Global, explores how 6AMLD will impact businesses and explains how a new generation of advanced augmented intelligence technology is needed to help them remain compliant.
Money laundering scandals at banks have dominated the headlines in recent months along with the efforts of pan European bodies and financial market regulators to find ways to strengthen the EU’s defences against criminal exploitation of the financial systems.
On the 12th November 2018, shortly after the adoption of the 5th EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD), the European Parliament published updated rules to further strengthen the fight against money laundering through the 6th EU Money Laundering Directive (6AMLD).
Member States are required to transpose the 6AMLD into national law by the 3rd December 2020, after which, relevant regulations must be implemented by firms within Member States by the 3rd June 2021. The regulations will have implications for regulated entities across the EU, and for any UK businesses seeking to operate within the EU after Brexit, regardless of the nature of the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU. Furthermore, the EU recognises the measures to combat money laundering “should therefore be compatible with, and at least as stringent as, other actions undertaken in international fora.”
But how does the new directive compare with the existing 5AMLD? What do regulated entities need to be aware of?
Designed to eliminate loopholes in domestic legislation across Europe, 6AMLD provides a harmonised definition of money laundering offences, featuring 22 predicate offences that now include cybercrime and environmental crime. This is a reflection of the changing nature of the threat landscape and shifting priorities within the EU.
In addition to this, 6AMLD will add “aiding and abetting”, “attempting and inciting” to the list of money laundering offences, extending criminal liability from those directly responsible for converting the proceeds of crime to “enablers” who act as accomplices in the laundering process.
Moreover, legal persons and business leaders are liable for penalties, where they failed to prevent illegal activity conducted by a “directing mind” within the organisation. Even if the criminal activity responsible for the illegal funds can’t be identified, the legal person still faces liability.
On top of the new offences and extended liability, a key feature of the updated directive is the tightening of punishments for money laundering.
Under the new legislation, states within the EU will have to impose a minimum prison sentence of five years for money laundering offences rather than the current one year. Any sentence may be supplemented with “effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions” which can be combined with fines. This includes the full shut-down of a business.
The increased severity of penalties for organisations that – wittingly or not – facilitate financial crime has grave implications for regulated entities and for their owners. They will require them to further enhance the diligence with which they monitor their business operations and customer onboarding in order to identify potential criminal activity before it becomes an issue.
These new provisions will require regulated entities to take steps to significantly improve their AML monitoring processes – given the demands of new regulations, manual checks and the use of single sources of information will no longer suffice.
Preparing for 6AMLD
So how can regulated entities achieve this deeper due diligence, and prepare for compliance with future regulations?
Already concerned about the demands of the current 5AMLD, it would be no surprise if businesses are daunted by the challenge of compliance with the future 6AMLD. However, provided organisations are willing to incorporate more specialised Regulatory Technology (RegTech) solutions in their AML processes, they can avoid penalties and protect their reputation.
Such real-time technology can support regulated entities in preparing for the arrival of 6AMLD by enabling them to automate their on-boarding and monitoring procedures while leveraging the essential human judgement which is involved in determining customer risk.
In particular, RegTech that features advanced “augmented intelligence” solutions, combined with machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) can significantly ease the legislative burden for businesses. These solutions can take on the heavy lifting in searching global databases for information on customers which is credible, reliable and up to date, as required by the legislation.
Kompli-Global’s kompli-IQ and Kompli-IQ plus, for example, are augmented intelligence solutions designed to replicate the activities of the very best due diligence analyst. These systems use hundreds of search terms in multiple languages to perform real-time searches of the surface and deep web, as well as other key global databases for information to onboard new and monitor existing customers.
Carrying out a number of checks simultaneously and searching 24 hours a day, seven days a week, such RegTech can flag any adverse media to human compliance managers the instant it appears, without delay. Enhancing – rather than replacing – the work of human analysts, this technology provides vital information to enable effective risk judgements by compliance staff.
In doing so, it can help regulated firms to identify customers and beneficial owners, uncovering any links they may have to suspect businesses, “bad actors” and high-risk third countries. By freeing up human compliance managers to make effective informed judgements about the risk, such solutions help regulated entities to meet their new due diligence obligations effectively, efficiently and reliably.
More legislation to come
In July this year, the Commission published a report on the assessment of alleged money laundering cases affecting EU banks 2012 – 2018, without disclosing their names. The analysis showed substantial examples of failures by regulated entities to comply with basic requirements of the Anti-Money Laundering Directives.
A further passage mentioned that “in a few instances, deficiencies were so severe that they ultimately led to the failure or closure of the credit institution or specific business.” This begs the question, how many failures will occur before a regulator closes a major bank? The report concluded that there is “regulatory and supervisory fragmentation in the anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism” and identified the need for further pan European harmonisation of AML regimes.
Time to act
6AMLD will pose challenges for businesses as they look to ensure they continue to comply with changing regulations. The globalisation of the financial system and the expansion of the global communications network means that the amount of information available on individuals and businesses is growing exponentially. It is becoming harder for human compliance managers to carry out comprehensive KYC checks on their own, and even more of a challenge for them to take account of any delays in updating the information available on databases and watchlists.
However, the development of RegTech with advanced augmented intelligence offers an ideal solution for regulated entities keen to safeguard their business from being targeted by money launderers and other criminals. Harnessing this technology, businesses can access and monitor all new information as and when it arrives. In doing so, they can close gaps in their defences for criminals to exploit, ensuring they are prepared to comply with the rigorous demands of 6AMLD.
Bangladesh - US Ambassador Earl R Miller yesterday said his country would continue to support Bangladesh in tackling money laundering and terrorist financing and strengthen the rule of law on the issue.
“It is not enough to adopt strong laws prohibiting money laundering and terrorism financing. The laws must be enforced by trained investigators, prosecutors, and analysts,” he said at an inaugural session of a three-day workshop.
Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), the US Department of Justice, and the US Department of State jointly organised the workshop titled “Financial Crimes: Investigation and Prosecution” at Hotel Amari in Dhaka.
Miller said stopping the flow of money to terrorists takes a regional and international effort.
“So, it is fitting we hold this workshop in Bangladesh, the co-chair of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering for the 2018-2020 term.” He said many of these programmes have been jointly sponsored with the BFIU because of a common goal, which was preventing terrorism by way of identifying and choking off financial support for terrorists and their organisations.
“Together, we are working to build strong legal institutions that respect the rule of law and are, in turn, respected by our fellow citizens. It is what they expect; it is what they deserve.”
Through joint practical, hands on training like this, prosecutors, investigators, and regulators get to know each other and the unique and crucial role they play, according to the US ambassador to Bangladesh.
“And this is critical because terrorists are becoming more sophisticated all the time.”
“They are using methods and tools such as cryptocurrency, which you will hear about during this workshop. To stay ahead we must work smarter; we must work together and combine our knowledge and skills.” Financial crime is a severe problem for any economy, which may collapse the entire state system, said Abu Hena Mohd Razee Hassan, head of the BFIU.
International cooperation among the nations is very important as terrorist financing and money laundering is being perpetrated across the globe, he said. “Bangladesh always puts highest importance on regional and international cooperation,” he said, adding that being a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, the country has been playing a vital role in extending cooperation to combat the financial crimes.
As a member of the Egmont Group, the BFIU also proactively responds to all the request of the international cooperation, he said. The Egmont Group, a body of 164 FIUs, provides a platform for the secure exchange of expertise and financial intelligence to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
Officials of the BFIU, Anti-Corruption Commission, Criminal Investigation Department, the National Board of Revenue and the law, justice, and parliamentary affairs ministry, the Department of Narcotics Control, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate attended the event.
Belize - By BBN Staff: The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the U.S. Embassy in Belize facilitated a training on covert sources of information in money laundering investigations on September 18, 2019.
The training, conducted by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Technical Assistance was aimed to enhance awareness of Belize’s criminal laws on preventing money laundering and the use of covert sources in money laundering investigations.
24 participants representing the Belize Police Department, Customs & Excise Department, Belize Tax Services, FIU, Immigration & Nationality Services, and International Financial Services Commission shared case studies, learned key concepts in utilizing covert sources of information, and engaged in practical exercises that address real life scenarios.
This initiative is part of an ongoing partnership between the United States and Belize to enhance the implementation of Belize’s anti-money laundering laws and strengthen governance.
The Geneva-based, Facebook-led Libra cryptocurrency will have to adhere to stringent regulations, Reuters reported on Tuesday (Sept. 10).
U.S. Under Secretary of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker told Geneva reporters that all cryptocurrency projects operating in the U.S. will be required to comply with regulatory standards to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing.
“Whether it’s bitcoin, Ethereum, Libra, our message is the same to all of these companies: Anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism has to be built into your design from the get-go,” she said. Mandelker held a meeting to discuss cryptocurrencies with the Swiss government, officials from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and others.
“Switzerland, like a number of other countries, has promoted itself as a hub for FinTech and for innovation, and so, of course, any country that promotes itself in that way – in my view, it’s incumbent upon that country to take these particular concerns at the highest level in(to) the utmost regard,” she added.
Thus far, the digital currency industry has focused primarily on developing and optimizing the technology that powers it, Mandelker noted, and there has been far too little attention on ensuring that crypto networks are not providing a haven for terrorists, fraudsters and other criminals to send and conceal funds.
The meeting agenda included discussions around money laundering, terrorism and what type of enforcement would be used to ensure that coin companies comply with regulations.
The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) in August awarded the country’s first banking and securities licenses to blockchain service providers SEBA Crypto AG and Sygnum AG. Those are the first firms to be registered in Switzerland as broker-dealers with a blockchain focus. They will be required to follow the new anti-money laundering (AML) requirements that FINMA revealed earlier in August.
Although terrorists have become skilled at manipulating the Internet and other new technologies, artificial intelligence or AI, is a powerful tool in the fight against them, a top UN counter-terrorism official said this week at a high-level conference on strengthening international cooperation against the scourge.
Co-organized by Belarus and the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), “Countering terrorism through innovative approaches and the use of new and emerging technologies” concluded on Wednesday in Minsk.
The internet “expands technological boundaries literally every day” and AI, 3D printing biotechnology innovations, can help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said Vladimir Voronkov, the first-ever Under Secretary-General for the UN Counter-Terrorism Office.
But it also provides “live video broadcasting of brutal killings”, he continued, citing the recent attack in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, where dozens of Muslim worshippers were killed by a self-avowed white supremacist.
“This is done in order to spread fear and split society”, maintained the UNOCT chief, warning of more serious developments, such as attempts by terrorists to create home-made biological weapons.
He pointed out that terrorists have the capacity to use drones to deliver chemical, biological or radiological materials, which Mr. Voronkov said, “are even hard to imagine.”
But the international community is “not sitting idly by”, he stressed, noting that developments in this area allow the processing and identification of key information, which can counter terrorist operations with lightning speed.
“The Internet content of terrorists is detected and deleted faster than ever”, elaborated the UNOCT chief. “Fifteen to twenty minutes is enough to detect and remove such content thanks to machine algorithms”.
Crediting quantum computing coupled with the use of AI, he explained that accelerated information processing enables terrorist tracing.
Mr. Voronkov added that the use of blockchain registration – a growing list of records, or blocks, that are linked using cryptography – is also being explored to identify companies and individuals responsible for financing terrorism.
“It is necessary to increase the exchange of expert knowledge on technologies such as 3D printing, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, robotics, the synthesis of the human face and autonomous weapons”, he underscored. “This will help to better identify and respond to risks before it is too late”.
The two-day conference was divided into three themed sessions that focused at global, regional and national levels on the misuse of new technologies and AI by terrorists; approaches and strategies to counteract terrorist propaganda; and the misuse of scientific innovations.
Secretary General Jürgen Stock underlines Organization’s ongoing commitment to region in combating organized crime and terrorism.
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso – Addressing the G5 Sahel Ministers of Security, INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock underlined the need for enhanced sharing of information, particularly biometrics, to combat the terrorism threat.
Al Qaeda and Da'esh-affiliated groups operating across the region, as well as Boko Haram’s southern threat, have made Sahelian countries increasingly vulnerable to insecurity through armed conflict, terrorism and transnational organized crime such as irregular migration, people trafficking and drug smuggling.
Secretary General Stock said the agreement signed earlier this year with the G5 Sahel Permanent Secretariat for INTERPOL to assist the police component had become the most comprehensive initiative the organization had ever undertaken.
This includes the consolidation of the Plateformes de Coopération en Matière de Sécurité (PCMS) with national multi-agency groups which coordinate information sharing against terrorist threats, including bomb-makers and Improvised Explosive Devices in the G5 Sahel countries and regionally.
INTERPOL will also provide operating procedures and training to aid cooperation between the Military Component and Police Component to exploit battlefield information, including biometrics.
“The territorial defeat of Da’esh in Syria and Iraq means the threat has become more diffuse, dynamic and destabilizing,” said Secretary General Stock.
“But it is not about a single group, no matter how deadly. It is not about one conflict, or even a single continent. It is a composite, sophisticated cross-regional threat, where local insurgences and grievances provide fertile ground for terrorist groups.
“The need-to-know and the need-to-share can coexist and bring operational impact across regions, but even the highest quality intelligence cannot be actionable, unless it is effectively streamlined,” concluded the INTERPOL Chief.
INTERPOL pioneered military-to-law enforcement information exchange (Mi-Lex), starting in 2005 with Project Vennlig in Iraq, and later in Afghanistan through Project Hamah.
Project FIRST (Facial, Imaging, Recognition, Searching and Tracking) will also be a key area for development at the national level across the G5 Sahel countries.
Biometric information gathered and shared via Project FIRST has already resulted in matches between previously unconnected individuals within the Sahel and beyond.
In addition, INTERPOL’s databases currently hold details of more than 50,000 foreign terrorist fighters, 3,500 bomb-makers and some 400,000 pieces of terrorist-related information.
Prior to addressing the G5 Sahel Ministers of Security, Secretary General Stock met with Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, President of Burkina Faso and President of the G5 Sahel, as well as Prime Minister Christophe Joseph Marie Dabiré, Minister of Foreign affairs Alpha Barry, and Jean Bosco Kienou, Director General of National Police and President of the G5 Sahel Committee for Defence and Security.
An initiative to extend the implementation of the West African Police Information System (WAPIS) throughout the country was also signed by the INTERPOL Chief and Minister of Security Ousséni Compaoré.