E.g., 12/11/2019
E.g., 12/11/2019
12/10/2019

The Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), a regional body in the business of alerting and watching out for activities involving money laundering, on November 26 began a two-day training for Liberian journalists to prepare them investigate, and diagnose some complex strategies associated with money laundering.

Money laundering, according to International Compliance Association (ICA), is the generic term used to describe the process by which criminals disguise the original ownership and control of the proceeds of criminal conduct by making such proceeds appear to have derived from a legitimate source.

The training is a part of GIABA's regional workshop for journalists, aimed at harnessing the power of the media to be more alert and disseminate anti-money laundering messages. It will also ensure to capacitate investigative journalists to report, and disseminate messages that counter the financing of terrorism to a wide audience in the West African region, as well as liaise with the media in unearthing unwholesome financial practices, including money laundering.

The workshop, therefore, seeks to train competent and experienced journalists to have a general knowledge of money laundering and terrorist financing; assist participants to produce reports and articles or features of quality on money laundering and terrorist financing issues, and improve the network of journalists to disseminate truthful information on money laundering and terrorist financing systems in West Africa.

One of the main functions of GIABA is to promote strategic partnerships with the civil society, including news media, religious leaders, youths and several state actors in the fight against these menaces.

GIABA has been in existence since 2005, providing technical assistance to member countries, conducting training programs for different actors and sectors involved in efforts and actions to combat the scourges of money laundering and terrorist financing.

"The fight against economic and financial crimes is an enormous task requiring concerted, coordinated, and cooperative efforts by several stakeholders, each with distinct but complementary roles," a release from GIABA said.

GIABA's work in training and sensitizing people on money laundering and terrorist financing, if disregarded for any reason, cannot be overlooked nowadays.

Several terrorist attacks have been reported in West Africa of recent; one in nearby Ivory Coast and several others in Burkina Faso and Mali.

The seminar is to build strong alliance with the media for effective dissemination of anti-money laundering and terrorist financing messages and to improve network among journalists in promoting the implementation of effective AML/CFT regimes in the region.

The training will be facilitated by experienced and highly competent media experts on anti-money laundering issues, including GIABA faculty through plenary sessions, case studies, experience-sharing, and syndicate group sessions.

GIABA is a specialized institution of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as Financial Task Force responsible for combating money laundering and terrorist financing in the West African region. It was established by the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS in 2000 with the mandate to protect the national economies and the financial systems of member states from abuse and the laundering of the proceeds of crimes.

https://allafrica.com

12/09/2019

Council of the EU - Press release - 5 December 2019.

The Council today adopted conclusions on strategic priorities on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML).

The conclusions are a direct response to the EU strategic agenda for 2019-2024 where the European Council calls for "strengthening our fight against terrorism and cross-border crime, improving cooperation and information-sharing and further developing our common instruments".

The conclusions point to significant recent enhancements to the AML regulatory framework. The implementation of the 5th revision of the AML directive, adopted in May 2018, the new capital requirements directive for banks (CRD5), adopted in May 2019, as well as the review of the functioning of the European Supervisory Authorities, adopted on 2 December, will all strengthen the rules on tackling money laundering and terrorist financing.

In this context, the Council urges for the swift transposition of all AML legislation into national law and for the strengthening of their effective implementation

The conclusions also build on the Commission's communication and four reports published in July 2019 that provide an overview of current challenges and identify a range of shortcomings with respect to banks, AML authorities, prudential supervisors and intra-EU cooperation and conclude that there is fragmentation in both AML rules and supervision.

The Council therefore invites the Commission to explore possible further actions to enhance the existing AML rules, in particular by considering: 

-ways of ensuring a more robust and effective cooperation between the relevant authorities and bodies involved in anti-money laundering and terrorist financing, including through addressing impediments on exchange of information between them;

-whether some aspects could be better addressed through a regulation;

-possibilities, advantages and disadvantages of conferring certain supervisory responsibilities and powers to an EU body.

https://www.consilium.europa.eu

12/06/2019

Enhancing the capacity of experts to investigate and prosecute war crimes

YON, France – War crimes investigators have taken part in an INTERPOL training course to enhance their skills in real-life investigative scenarios.

The simulation exercise was part of a week-long (18 – 22 November) course on genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity investigations at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters in France.

The 7th Training Course on Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity Investigations provided 17 law enforcement officers from 14 countries with the fundamental skills they need to investigate these serious international crimes.

International experts in the investigation of war crimes from the International Criminal Court as well as from Switzerland and Netherlands shared their expertise with the participants, briefing them on the skills needed to investigate genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflict

The training sought in particular to enhance the knowledge of participants in specialized investigative techniques.

These include forensics, interview skills, witness protection measures and the recognition of armed groups and military equipment.

The course prepared officers for potential collaboration with peacekeeping forces deployed in different countries, as well as with investigations undertaken by national authorities, international courts and tribunals tied to the discovery of mass graves in post-conflict areas.

The participants participated in the simulation exercise on the fourth day of the course to apply their knowledge to real-life scenarios.

Simulated war crime scenes including a detention centre, execution area and mass grave, set up with the assistance of the French Forensic Police, and participants were required to investigate them and collect evidence, using techniques learnt during the training.

The course was held under the framework of Project BASIC (Broadening Analysis on Serious International Crimes) in which INTERPOL works with national authorities and international partners to locate and arrest fugitives wanted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

https://www.interpol.int

12/05/2019

Philippines - National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. said cryptocurrencies and new digital channels open up new risks for the government to manage as it monitors the financing of terrorism.

In a keynote address Tuesday at the fifth Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) Summit hosted by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in Taguig, Mr. Esperon said: “The emergence or proliferation of virtual and cryptocurrencies adds to our dilemma. This is where we seek the expertise and good practices of our counterparts to improve on our system, as this is a relatively new domain in our jurisdiction.”

He said backers have been using social networking sites to fund terrorist activity.

“Our law enforcement continues its efforts to disrupt these financial networks even before funds are moved or transferred… Cutting off their lifeline is a crucial step to undermine their capabilities and frustrate their ability to carry out terrorist attacks,” Mr. Esperon said.

In Southern Mindanao, illegal organizations use kidnapping for ransom and extortion to raise funds, according to Mr. Esperon. This supplements funding from family members, friends, and non-profit organizations, he added.

“As you know, in 2017, we experienced the most brutal onslaught of terrorism in our country in the siege of Marawi. Terrorism financing was integral (for) foreign terrorists in staging such acts and sustain it for a long time,” he said.

Mr. Esperon said oil smuggling was the primary source of funding for ISIS, while terrorist and criminal groups in Afghanistan raise money from opium.

“We do not want this to happen here in the Philippines or in the region,” he said.

In his speech, AMLC Executive Director Mel Georgie B. Racela said that regional cooperation and collaboration is expected to improve the effectiveness of enforcement work.

“For instance, the AMLC has referred 620 intelligence briefs and has conducted nine risk assessment and strategic studies, since 2017,” he said, noting that the council has frozen assets of over P1 billion between January 2018 and July 2019, including P52 million pesos in suspected funding for terrorism.

AMLC is hosting the fifth CTF Summit in partnership with the Indonesian financial intelligence unit, known as PPATK and the Australian financial intelligence agency AUSTRAC.

https://www.bworldonline.com

12/04/2019

BRUSSELS] Europe's finance chiefs are to confront a wave of money-laundering scandals within the banking industry by recommending that a regional agency be formed to prevent such crimes.

Officials will call on the European Commission, the European Union's (EU) executive arm, to further consider and make a proposal for setting up a common institution to fight illicit financial flows, according to a draft document seen by Bloomberg. They're set to agree on the recommendations on Thursday in Brussels.

The current framework's shortcomings have been laid bare by a string of high-profile scandals that have shut down banks and slashed lenders' share prices in several European countries. A coordinated response by the region's finance ministers would open the door for a revamp of the system's supervision, which is vulnerable to abuse because it's largely legislated along national lines.

Sweden's SEB AB last month became the latest lender under scrutiny after acknowledging that more than US$90 billion in transactions were made at its Estonian operations by non-residents, with roughly a third at "increased risk for money laundering". That followed scandals over the past two years including at Danske Bank A/S, Nordea Bank Abp and ING Groep NV.

While an accord would reflect widespread recognition on the need for reform, there are still many questions on what exactly needs to be done, according to two officials involved in the talks who asked not to be identified because the discussions aren't public. Thorny issues include areas like law enforcement, which are traditionally handled at the national level, they said.

https://www.businesstimes.com.sg

12/03/2019

The 30th Plenary Meeting of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF) on Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing was closed, on Thursday, 28 November 2019. It was held in Cairo, the Arab Republic of Egypt, for 3 days, starting 26 November 2019, under the presidency of the State of Libya represented by HE Dr. Subhi Musbah Zeed, the director of the Libyan Financial Intelligence Unit and the MENAFATF President.

The Plenary Meeting was attended by AML/CFT experts from twenty Arab member countries (the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Republic of Tunisia, the Republic of Djibouti, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Sudan, the Arab Republic of Syria, the Federal Republic of Somalia, the Republic of Iraq, the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Palestine, the State of Qatar, the State of Kuwait, the Lebanese Republic, the State of Libya, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Kingdom of Morocco, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and the Republic of Yemen). The Plenary Meeting was also attended by representatives of several observer countries and authorities at the MENAFATF (the French Republic, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the Kingdom of Spain, the Federal Republic of Germany, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the Secretariat General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the United Nations (UN), and Egmont Group).

The Plenary Meeting addressed, during its sessions, many important topics related to the MENAFATF work and different activities and took several relevant decisions. The most important of which are as follows:

Promoting the MENAFATF efforts in the CFT field

The Plenary Meeting addressed the efforts exerted by the MENAFATF in the CFT field, by following up on the activities of the 7th Operational Forum on Terrorist Financing (OFTF) which was held on the margins of the 30th Plenary Meeting on 23 November 2019 and which also addressed an update of the latest information relating to the risks of terrorism and its financing in the region, as well as the latest developments relating to TF risks, methods and trends through the misuse of the NPO sector in TF operations, based on the practical experience of the participating experts. Countries efforts to assess TF risks posed by the NPO sector were also addressed, in addition to the size of criminal proceeds generated from the migrant smuggling crime and its relation with the TF offense, the most important challenges faced by countries when dealing with this type of crimes, along with the provision of some solutions and recommendations for countries to mitigate the risks of the migrant smuggling crime. 

Relationship with the FATF, the international and regional organizations and counterparts

The Plenary Meeting addressed some topics related to the relation of the MENAFATF with the FATF, and followed up on the results and developments of the latest CFT projects with respect to the FATF report on financing Daesh, Al-Qaeda and their affiliated groups, and the guidance on TF investigation and prosecution.

MENAFATF meetings held in the margins of the Plenary Meeting

In the margins of the Plenary Meeting, the Advisory Committee held its meeting on Friday, 22 November 2019, and the OFTF and the Financial Intelligence Units Forum (FIUF) held their meetings on Saturday, 23 November 2019. The MEWG meeting was held during the period from 24 to 25 November 2019, while the National Risk Assessment Committee (NRAC) meeting was held on Sunday, 24 November 2019 and the TATWG meeting on Monday, 25 November 2019. The Plenary Meeting adopted the working groups and committees co-chairs reports and approved upon their recommendations.

Other issues

The Plenary examined several topics relating to plans and funding, in addition to many important administrative and regulatory issues that were all adopted.

The Plenary Meeting concluded with the comments of the observers who praised the MENAFATF efforts to protect the region from risks of ML/TF operations and expressed their willingness to cooperate with the MENAFATF in this regard. The delegations also praised the good hospitality and organization of the event.

The next MENAFATF (31st) Plenary Meeting will be held in the Kingdom of Bahrain, during the period from 11 to 16 April 2020.

http://www.menafatf.org

12/02/2019

The Cayman Islands has warned crypto services that they most follow strict anti-money laundering rules as the jurisdiction gets ready to implement the global AML standards for crypto assets set out by the Financial Action Task Force. 

The Ministry of Financial Services has issued a statement highlighting that the government is currently preparing a legislative framework to enable compliance of virtual asset service providers with these international measures.

"Persons engaged in virtual asset services in or from within the Islands are therefore reminded that they are subject to, and are required to comply fully with, the provisions of the AMLRs and all other applicable laws," the statement said.

"Virtual asset service providers are therefore obligated to take preventative measures under the AMLRs, including customer due diligence," it added.

Services in connection with virtual assets, such as cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, already have to conduct customer due diligence under Cayman law.

Recent FATF recommendations about to the regulation and supervision of virtual assets and the provision of virtual asset services urge countries and obliged entities to comply with its recommendations to prevent misuse of virtual assets (VAs) for ML and terrorist financing.

FATF's guidance envisages globally enforceable rules to reduce and eventually eliminate money laundering conducted through cryptocurrencies. The main recommendation is a call for world leaders to implement and adopt AML measures in their cryptocurrency markets through national cooperation.

The treatment of virtual assets has been amended to take account of criminal uses of cryptocurrencies and the guidance recommends subjecting crypto-service providers to supervision and monitoring by competent national authorities, without relying on self-regulatory bodies.

 

https://www.internationalinvestment.net

11/30/2019

From November 18th to 20th, 2019, the Chair of the Egmont Group’s Information Exchange Working Group (IEWG) Mr. Marko STOLLE attended the INTERPOL Anti-Corruption and Asset Recovery Global Conference in Medellin, Colombia.

During his presentation and the ensuing panel discussion on international cooperation, Mr. STOLLE emphasized that the fight against the laundering of proceeds of corruption remains a priority item on the agenda of the Egmont Group. In this regard, the Group has produced a number of important papers such as the 2013 report on “The Role of Financial Intelligence Units in Fighting Corruption and Asset Recovery” and the 2019 report on “FIU Tools and Practices for Investigating Laundering of the Proceeds of Corruption” to support the dynamic role of FIUs in the fight against corruption.

The topic of FIUs’ role in the fight against the laundering of proceeds of corruption was discussed as a main theme during the Egmont Group’s meeting in Buenos Aires in March 2018. This discussion resulted in number of substantial outcomes which were used by the organisation in its efforts to tackle the laundering of criminal funds obtained through corruption.

Mr. STOLLE also underlined that FIUs are uniquely positioned to collect and analyse sensitive information throughout corruption related cases while providing valuable insights into associated transactions, assets and networks. He further reinforced that the operational independence and autonomy of FIUs, as well as the structure and governance of the Egmont Group, are critical to ensuring the effective contribution of FIUs even in the most sensitive corruption cases.

Suspicious transaction reports submitted by the private sector allow FIUs to establish an intelligence data bank to detect and tackle the laundering of proceeds of corruption. To support the role of the private sector, FIUs and the Egmont Group provide red flags, develop typologies, trainings and other important feedback from their analysis on a regular basis.

As corruption is a transnational and corrosive crime, in most cases FIUs are relying on the international exchange of information to combat the flow of illicit proceeds. Mr. STOLLE pointed out that the Egmont Group provides a reliable framework to facilitate timely and secure international cooperation, enabling FIUs to support law enforcement efforts and participate in the early detection and seizure of the ill-gotten assets.

Mr. STOLLE concluded by asserting that FIUs require intelligence inter alia from LEAs to bring into effect their unique capabilities. All authorities should work closely together to recognize, investigate and, over time, prevent corruption.

Other speakers also recognized the unique role of FIUs and stressed that they are an integral part of the joint efforts to tackle the laundering of proceeds of corruption.

Egmont Group is grateful for being able to attend such important events and would like to thank INTERPOL for the invitation.

https://egmontgroup.org

11/29/2019

Beijing, 22 November 2019 - Every year, the illegal wildlife trade threatens many animal species with extinction.  Not only does this illegal trade have a devastating impact on our biodiversity, it is also generating vast amounts of revenues for criminal networks, often with a wide international reach. UN research estimates that the illegal wildlife trade is worth as much as 23 billion USD every year.

The Financial Action Task Force, under its Chinese presidency, has made it a priority to help countries go after the money involved in the illegal wildlife trade, and identify and disrupt large criminal networks that profit from this crime.

Today, FATF President Xiangmin Liu hosted one of the first regional meetings on tackling the illegal wildlife trade as a financial crime, in Beijing, China. This is the first time that public and private sector representatives, including anti-money laundering experts and wildlife experts, have come together to share experiences about detecting and combatting the financial flows linked to the illegal wildlife trade. 

The financial sector plays a crucial role in identifying suspicious activity, and this workshop benefited from the experience of major financial institutions such as Standard Chartered and the China Construction Bank.

Dialogue between the public and private sector is vital in assisting financial institutions and law enforcement agencies to identify suspicious activity, and to maintain an up-to-date understanding of the evolving threats and risks linked to the illegal wildlife trade. During the next year, the FATF will work with the public and private sector, including the People’s Bank of China, the United for Wildlife Financial Taskforce and The Royal Foundation, to develop a report on good practices that will assist in financial investigations of the illegal wildlife trade. The report will highlight how public-private partnerships and international cooperation can help to identify and disrupt the illicit proceeds of this devastating criminal activity.

 

http://www.fatf-gafi.org

11/28/2019

Turks and Caicos - PUBLIC workers from various sectors of the Government attended a one day workshop on combatting the financing of terrorism this November.

The participants from the Attorney Generals Chambers, the Financial Services Commission and the Customs Department were taught basic investigation techniques.

The workshop was help at the Financial Services Commissions’ office in Grand Turk on Wednesday, November 6.

It was facilitated by Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Angela Brooks, Detective Inspector Paulin Nemours, Senior Customs Intelligence and Investigations Officer Gregston Been and Supervisory Intelligence Officer Haiden Spring of the FIA. 

The workshop focused on the powers of law enforcement in the prevention of terrorist financing, partnerships in the fight against terrorist financing and methods of detection to prevent terrorist financing. 

A Government press release on Monday (November 18) said the TCI is continually enhancing its measures to fight money laundering and financing of terrorism.

"We recognise the importance of sharing this knowledge with all relevant authorities to accomplish our goals, and to fulfil the obligations of Financial Action Task Force.

"We look forward to the cooperation and compliance of the public to ensure that our country’s laws are upheld.”

The workshop was hosted by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, the police Financial Crimes Unit, the Customs Department and the Financial Intelligence Agency.

https://tcweeklynews.com

11/27/2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. government will strictly enforce a rule that requires cryptocurrency firms engaged in money service businesses such as digital asset exchanges and wallet service providers to share information about their customers, Kenneth Blanco, director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), said on Friday.

Part of anti-money laundering regulations, the “travel rule” requires cryptocurrency exchanges to verify their customers’ identities, identify the original parties and beneficiaries of transfers $3,000 or higher, and transmit that information to counterparties if they exist.

“It (travel rule) applies to CVCs (convertible virtual currencies) and we expect that you will comply period,” Blanco said at a conference hosted by Chainalysis, a New York-based blockchain analysis company.

“That’s what our expectation is. You will comply. I don’t know what the shock is. This is nothing new,” he added.

The U.S. government’s moves came as cryptocurrency crime soared into the billions of dollars, with global investigators grappling with major money laundering hubs that are at the center of the virtual worlds. Ciphertrace, in a recent report released in August, said cryptocurrency thefts, scams, and fraud may exceed more than $4.3 billion this year.

The travel rule was first issued by FinCEN in 1996 as part of anti-money laundering standards that applies to all U.S. financial institutions. FinCEN expanded the rule’s coverage in March 2013 to apply to crypto exchanges as well, and in May this year, the Treasury unit affirmed that guidance.

The government’s action comes on the heels of guidelines released in June by the U.S. Treasury led-Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental global organization devoted to battling money laundering and terrorism financing. FATF likewise directed crypto exchanges and regulators around the world to comply with the travel rule, giving them about year to do it from June this year.

“FinCEN...has been conducting examinations that include compliance with the funds’ travel rule since 2014,” Blanco said, adding that it is the most commonly cited violation with regard to money service businesses engaged in virtual currencies.

FinCEN’s May guidance on the travel rule created confusion within the crypto industry, which believes the rule didn’t apply to them.

In an earlier interview, Dave Jevans, chief executive officer of U.S. blockchain forensics company CipherTrace, said people in the crypto industry were surprised at FinCEN’s recent actions because digital currencies have never been classified as money and the belief was that the travel rule does not apply to them.

 

https://www.reuters.com

11/26/2019

The Council of Europe provided a workshop for the Belarusian law enforcement representatives and judges on investigative techniques, and evidentiary aspects of money laundering and terrorist financing investigations, prosecution and adjudication.

The presentations and the discussions included practical examples from the United Kingdom and North Macedonia, including on confiscation of proceeds of crime and international cooperation in money laundering and terrorist financing cases.

A hypothetical case study was used as a tool to introduce various techniques for the effective investigation and prosecution of money laundering cases.

The workshop was organized within the European Union/Council of Europe Partnership for Good Governance II Project “Countering money laundering and terrorism financing in Belarus” (2019-2021).

https://www.coe.int

11/25/2019

INTERPOL brings world experts under one roof this week to address the increasing threat of chemical and explosives terrorism to global peace and security.

Lyon, France - The four-day (28-31 October) Global Congress on Chemical Security and Emerging Threats will explore evolving threats, non-state actor procurement tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs), recent incidents of chemical and explosives terrorism, and effective detection, prevention and mitigation techniques.

Also high on the agenda of this international event, hosted at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, is the illicit diversion by criminals and terrorists of chemical precursors and explosive materials from legitimate procurement.

Throughout the week, almost 200 delegates representing law enforcement, government, international and regional organizations, academia and the chemical industry will share experiences and best practices for improving security throughout the lifecycle of chemicals that are used for criminal purposes.

Regional security concerns and emerging technologies used by non-state actors to spread toxic chemicals and explosives will be the focus of panel discussions, as well as the identification of vulnerabilities in chemical precursor and component supply chains, and best practices for addressing them.

“With increasingly sophisticated methods and technologies used to carry out devastating atrocities, it is vital to strengthen chemical security. This means addressing the entire chemical lifecycle, from development, production, transportation and transit through to their use and disposal,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.

“Effectively addressing chemical and explosives terrorism requires a committed and global response,” added the INTERPOL Chief.

A joint-statement issued during the event by the Congress co-organizers – INTERPOL, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency – underlines the importance of partnership building and of the Congress network more broadly:

“Our vision is to operationalize our combined expertise to enhance our collective ability to detect, deter, and disrupt the acquisition or use of explosive precursor chemicals and chemical weapons, which is why the holistic role of INTERPOL is so important".

By bringing together diverse expertise, the Congress is unique in its emphasis on developing symbiotic public-private relationships between law enforcement, industry experts and policymakers, and serves to support each of these actors’ ability to close the gaps exploited by criminals and terrorists to acquire precursor chemicals.

Tapping into a network of technical expertise to mitigate ongoing or new threat concerns as they arise will allow Global Congress members to continue their engagement in chemical security, and to mutually support one another well beyond the confines of the event.

https://www.interpol.int

11/23/2019

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark’s financial regulator has ordered the Danish unit of Swedish Handelsbanken to strengthen its anti-money laundering efforts and revise its risk evaluation, the watchdog said on Thursday.

“The branch’s inherent risk of being misused for money laundering or terrorist financing is normal to high compared to the average of financial companies in Denmark,” the regulator said in a statement.

The Danish unit of Handelsbanken, the country’s fifth largest lender, was ordered to “revise its risk assessment,” since its current one failed to adequately consider its customer types and risks associated with its products, the regulator said.

“This in particular concerns the risk of the branch being misused for terrorist financing,” the regulator added.

Handelsbanken was further ordered to ensure ample control of know-your-customer processes and prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing.

Handelsbanken’s strategy of expanding west rather than east, primarily in Britain, mean it has not become embroiled in Baltic money laundering scandals that have engulfed Nordic rivals Danske Bank and Swedbank.

The bank said last month it seeks to cut costs after restructuring charges dragged down third-quarter earnings.

“We take the findings seriously,” a Handelsbanken spokesman told Reuters. “We will implement what the FSA says. The investigation was done in March, and we’re …doing so”.

https://www.euronews.com

11/21/2019

Real estate agents, gold merchants and auction houses will be subject to tighter regulations in the future. Lawmakers complained that the US Embassy and Apple tried to quash part of the law at the last minute.

The German Parliament on Thursday passed a raft of anti-money-laundering measures to bring the country in line with EU directives. 

The reform packet imposes stricter regulations for real estate agents, notaries, precious metals dealers and auction houses to declare transactions to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing.

The laws still have to pass through the upper house of Parliament, the Bundesrat.

Real estate sector

Notaries and real estate agents in the property sector will have to follow tighter rules to report suspected money laundering cases. This includes any lease of more that €10,000 ($11,024) per month.

In its annual report last year, the government's Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) noted an "extreme vulnerability" in Germany's real estate market when it comes to dubious business deals and the investigation of criminal activities. The FIU found that of the 77,252 cases of money laundering in Germany last year, about 3,800 involved the real estate sector.

Anti-corruption group Transparency International found that about €30 billion in illicit funds were funneled into German real estate in 2017. It said criminal networks, particularly the Italian Mafia, had managed to exploit legal loopholes to launder money through properties in Germany.

Metals, auction houses and transparency registers

The new rules will also require precious metal dealers to report suspicious activity of more than €2,000, from €10,000 previously. Regulations for art dealers will also be extended down the chain of control to warehouses, intermediaries and auction houses.

A transparency register will also make it more difficult for straw men to disguise the real ownership of companies.

In addition, the Financial Intelligence Unit will gain more power to identify and prevent money laundering. The aim is to prevent illegal money from entering the legal economic sector to finance terrorist networks and criminal networks.

US Embassy, Apple intervene

During the closing debate, several lawmakers complained that the US Embassy and tech giant Apple had sought to intervene with the Chancellery to kill a section of the law from passing. 

The attempt was related to a regulation which obliges digital platforms to open their interfaces for payment services and apps, such as the payment platform Apple Pay. Banks' payment apps cannot yet access the Near Field Communication chip in the iPhone or Apple Watch, but have to resort to cumbersome data transfer methods such as QR codes.

 

https://www.dw.com

11/20/2019

Project Kalkan meeting brings together terrorism experts to share best practice and identify information gaps.

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan – Addressing emerging trends and challenges in combating the terrorist threat throughout Central Asia is the focus of an INTERPOL meeting in Tajikistan.

Bringing together terrorism experts and analysts, Project Kalkan focuses on facilitating the exchange of information and coordination of operational activities.

Since it was established in 2004, Kalkan member countries have shared with one another, and with INTERPOL, more than 10,300 terrorist profiles and information on 60 terrorist organizations.

Tajikistan’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Rahimzoda Ramazon Hamro said: “We have seen significant results from Project Kalkan in strengthening our united efforts to counter terrorism.

“Tajikistan is committed to continuing its support for INTERPOL and this project which is an example of what can be achieved through regional and global cooperation.”

On his first official mission to Tajikistan, INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock underlined to participants the value of systematically recording and sharing biometric data.

“This is especially relevant for individuals suspected of terrorist activity, including those serving currently in prison and ahead of their release.

“Going forward, this information will help strengthen INTERPOL’s role as a global early warning system to help countries detect and interdict suspects as they attempt to cross borders,” added the INTERPOL Chief.

The two-day (31 October and 1 November) meeting is the latest in a series of specialized regional meetings coordinated by INTERPOL and will include exchanges on the terrorist use of drones as well as Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Funding of Terrorism activities.

Project Kalkan, funded by the Government of Japan, currently involves 15 countries: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Georgia, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

https://www.interpol.int

11/19/2019

16-11-2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Reserve on Friday flagged high levels of corporate debt, the impact of an extended period of low global interest rates, and emerging “stablecoin” cryptocurrency proposals as potential risks to the financial system. 

In its latest twice-yearly review of financial stability, the Fed said that overall financial stability conditions had changed little since its last report in May, and that “the core of the financial sector appears resilient.”

Some asset values are high, the Fed noted, pointing in particular to commercial real estate values. But “risk appetite” was felt to be in line with “historical norms,” household debt “at a modest level relative to income,” leverage levels low among the largest banks, and the use of potentially volatile short-term funding posing only a modest risk to financial institutions.

But the report highlighted the Fed’s ongoing concern with record high levels of corporate debt, which some Fed officials worry could go bad if business slows and worsen any economic downturn. In addition, the Fed said low global borrowing costs could over time erode bank, insurance company, and pension fund returns, prompting them to take more risks.

“The current combination of very low credit spreads and high levels of indebtedness among risky nonfinancial corporates, including through leveraged loans, merits heightened vigilance,” Fed Governor Lael Brainard said in a prepared statement. “Over the medium term, the low-for-long environment and the associated incentives to reach for yield and take on additional debt could increase financial vulnerabilities.”

STABLECOINS AND STABILITY

But the most pointed commentary was directed at “stablecoins,” an effort, most prominently by Facebook through its proposed “Libra” initiative, to remove volatility from crypto currencies by tying them to an underlying basket of assets.

The Fed devoted a section of the report to the idea, warning that while that and other innovative, technology-driven financial products could serve as a new medium of exchange, the financial system could face “potentially severe consequences” if a broad-based stablecoin is poorly designed or regulated.

“The possibility for a stablecoin payment network to quickly achieve global scale introduces important challenges and risks related to financial stability, monetary policy, safeguards against money laundering and terrorist financing, and consumer and investor protection,” the report concluded.

Shortly after Facebook announced plans to use its massive platform to help establish a global stablecoin, the Fed said it raised a host of regulatory, anti-money laundering, and consumer protection challenges that must be addressed before any product launch.

The financial stability report was inaugurated a year ago, part of a growing effort by the central ban to better understand the risks posed by financial markets to the broader economy. The last two U.S. recessions emanated from the financial sector - the collapse of the dot-com stock bubble at the start of the century, and the meltdown of the subprime housing market ahead of the 2007 to 2009 slowdown - and policymakers see the report as a way to identify problems before they become acute.

The last few months have been volatile ones for stock and bond markets, with tensions heightened due to the U.S.-China trade war, a slowing global economy, and a list of geopolitical risks.

Central banks globally have cut interest rates as a result, with three Fed rate cuts in particular easing tensions in bond markets and recently boosting activity in housing and other credit-sensitive sectors.

In a Fed survey of investors and government contacts, however, “trade frictions” were cited as the chief economic risk, followed by concerns that looser monetary policy could lead to “excessive risk-taking.”

The “historically high” level of corporate debt is part of that, and a risk that Fed Chair Jerome Powell has repeatedly cited since taking over as head of the central bank.

Business credit has continued to grow faster than the economy, the Fed noted, debt is high relative to both the size of the U.S. economy and the size of corporate balance sheets, and the fastest increases have been in “debt extended to firms with poorer credit profiles.”

So far, however, low borrowing costs have made that debt sustainable.

“Broader corporate credit performance remains favorable amid a strong economy, and, with interest rates low by historical standards, debt service costs are at the lower ends of their historical ranges, particularly for risky firms,” the Fed concluded.

 

https://www.reuters.com

11/18/2019

(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Australia and Qatar strengthened yesterday their co-operation in the fight against financial crime and terrorism financing by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the sidelines of the Counter-Terrorism Financing Summit held in the Philippine capital Manila. 
Commenting on the MoU, Australian ambassador Jonathan Muir said: 'Qatar is an important player in the global financial system. I welcome this agreement as a sign of the commitment of Australia and Qatar to work together globally and bilaterally to counter serious financial crime and terrorist financing. It will benefit both parties in many ways, particularly through enhanced information sharing.
The MoU was signed by officials from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac) and its Qatari counterpart, the Qatar Financial Intelligence Unit (QFIU). QFIU deputy head Mohamed al-Mufthah said, 'QFIU was pleased to sign this MoU and welcome the benefits it will provide, particularly enhanced co-operation and information sharing between the two agencies.
Austrac CEO Nicole Rose PSM said, 'The signing of the MoU is positive for both countries and confirms the commitment to the exchange of financial intelligence information between Austrac and the QFUI. Adding Austrac's comprehensive network of international counterparts is critical in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing.

https://menafn.com

11/16/2019

The House of Representatives passed, by a voice vote, a bill designed to reform the Bank Secrecy Act ("BSA") and anti-money laundering ("AML") laws.

Specifically, the COUNTER Act (H.R. 2514) is intended to strengthen the effectiveness of anti-money laundering authorities by:

  • expanding the defined purpose of the BSA to include safeguarding the integrity of the international financial system;
  • increasing the administrative budget for the International Monetary Fund to provide AML technical assistance;
  • creating additional Treasury attaché positions overseas that are focused on AML issues;
  • adding FinCEN domestic liaisons to improve regulatory cooperation;
  • establishing a FinCEN Exchange Program to facilitate information sharing between law enforcement, financial institutions and FinCEN;
  • conducting studies and implementing strategies to address trade-based money laundering, de-risking and Chinese money laundering; and
  • requiring an examination of Treasury's delegation of regulatory authority under the BSA.

The bill would also aim to modernize the AML system by, among other things:

  • establishing a pilot program under which financial institutions are permitted to share suspicious activity reports (or "SARs") with foreign affiliates;
  • requiring FinCEN to share money laundering threat patterns and trends with financial institutions;
  • providing new sources for monetary rewards to whistleblowers who identify violations of the BSA;
  • further dissuading repeat offenders under the BSA;
  • incentivizing financial institutions to pursue innovative approaches to BSA compliance;
  • creating innovation labs within the Treasury and each Federal functional regulator; and
  • requiring FinCEN to conduct a study into the internal use of emerging technologies.

Commentary

There is an appetite in Congress for BSA reform. The COUNTER Act (H.R. 2514), described above, and the Corporate Transparency Act (H.R. 2513), which would require beneficial owners to be identified to FinCEN, have both passed the House. In the Senate, the ILLICIT CASH Act (S. 2563), which is largely similar to the two House bills, has been introduced. The three bills have bipartisan support, but they have yet to be consolidated. Nonetheless, the overarching themes of the AML bills are clear: 1) FinCEN must provide more useful feedback and guidance to financial institutions; 2) whistleblowers and innovative compliance tools are welcome; 3) repeat offenders are not; and 4) effective AML requires more international capacity and cooperation. The ultimate question is when, not if, a consolidated version of these bills will become law.

http://www.mondaq.com

11/15/2019

UK - Thousands of firms are to be contacted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority within the coming weeks asking what measures they have in place to combat money laundering.

The widespread checks on 7,000 firms that fall under the scope of money laundering regulations follow fears that many are doing little or nothing to meet their obligations.

In March the SRA wrote to 400 firms asking them to demonstrate compliance with the 2017 regulations by sending their risk assessments. Of the responses, 83 were found not to be compliant: firms either did not address all the risk areas required or they sent over something other than a concrete risk assessment.

It was found the majority of firms (64%) were using templates, many of which were of low quality. The SRA believes too many firms appear to take a ‘copy and paste’ approach without thinking through the specific risks and issues they individually face.

The regulator is also concerned that around 135 of the risk assessments were dated recently, suggesting either that many firms had coincidentally updated their assessment in recent weeks, or they had only created one in response to the SRA’s request.

As well as writing to the 7,000 at-risk firms, the SRA now plans an ‘extensive’ programme of targeted, in-depth visits to firms and calling in more firms’ risk assessments.

Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said: ‘Money laundering supports criminal activity such as people trafficking, drug smuggling and terrorism. The damage money laundering does to society means that every solicitor must be fully committed to preventing it. The vast majority would never intend to get involved in criminal activities, but poor processes open the door to money launderers.

‘A call from us should not be the prompt for a firm to get their act together. You need to take immediate action now if you are not on top of your money laundering risks. Where we have serious concerns, we will take strong action.’

Figures released in the SRA’s annual risk outlook, published today, show that so far this year it has opened 172 investigations linked to anti-money laundering compliance. In the past five years, the SRA has taken more than 60 such cases to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, resulting in more than 40 solicitors being struck off or suspended.

The regulator has highlighted its concerns in an updated warning notice and says it provides additional support including guidance, checklists and a suggested template for how to frame compliance methods.

Law Society of England and Wales president Simon Davis said: 'The SRA’s revised warning notice to the profession and the additional resources published today highlight the importance of tailoring money laundering compliance to the specific risk-profile of each practice. We provide a variety of resources to help our members comply with the Money Laundering Regulations and welcome the additional detail about some of the common issues the SRA have identified in firm-wide risk assessments.

'The new SRA guidance, checklists and templates will help members to understand and prepare for the level of detail that the SRA clearly expects. We encourage members to read these with care alongside the legal sector AML Guidance. Where a specific question is not answered by these resources, members are welcome to call our Practice Advice Service for free and confidential advice.'

New EU money laundering regulations requiring firms to update processes are due to come into force by 10 January 2020.

https://www.ft.com

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