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FATF strategic initiatives & Pakistan

The fourth, three-day plenary session of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) concluded on October 27, 2023, with delegates from more than 200 jurisdictions that addressed prominent issues related to money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing. Important decisions were made that included publication of a report addressing crowdfunding’s potential for terrorism financing, commitment to revise recommendation 8 for enhanced clarification regarding non-profit organizations NGO), appreciating countries criminalizing terrorist financing as outlined in recommendation 5, recognizing the imperative for full and effective implementation of FATF standards, as well as the adoption of a report focused on Illicit financial flows consequential to cyber-enabled fraud and the misuse of citizenship and residency through investment programmes.

FATF representatives also reached a consensus to release the updated FATF Risk-Based Guidance on Recommendation 25 concerning beneficial ownership and transparency of legal arrangements for public consultation. Furthermore, they granted permanent membership status to Indonesia, deliberated on the FATF-GAFILAT assessment related to Brazil, included Bulgaria in the roster of jurisdictions under increased monitoring, and removed Albania, the Cayman Islands, Jordan, and Panama from the Grey List. By granting permanent membership of FATF to Indonesia, total membership is now 40.

Indonesia’s determination to rectify concerns related to both technical matters and implementation of FATF action plan outlined in the evaluation process, led to the plenary’s decision to bestow full membership status, effective following the plenary’s conclusion. This milestone grants Indonesia the complete range of membership privileges and underscores its commitment to further enhancing its national AML-CFT programme. However, the plenary did not restore Russian Membership status that continues to be suspended. The plenary warns all jurisdictions to be vigilant about the potential risks arising from the circumvention of measures taken against the Russian Federation to protect the international financial system.

Under the leadership of Singapore, the plenary session introduced strategic initiatives with emphasis on advocating for policies and actions that prioritize asset recovery as a pivotal component in the war against money laundering and terrorist financing. Member states concurred that the current rate of asset recovery merely scratches the surface in reclaiming the substantial proceeds acquired by criminals.

Unfortunately, the scale of illicit fund flows remains substantial, yet the measures to impede their integration into the financial system lack uniformity. Examining statistics from esteemed organizations like the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reveals that criminal proceeds account for approximately 3.6% of the global gross domestic product. It further reveals that developing countries lose around US$ 20 to 40 billion annually, through bribery, misappropriation of funds, and other corrupt practices.

Additionally, the Transcrime Institute (Savona & Riccardi, 2015) estimates that illicit markets within the European Union yield revenue of around 110 billion Euros per annum, equivalent to roughly 9% of the EU’s GDP in 2010.

Given the vast scale of illicit fund movements, all jurisdictions must establish a unified front to combat this issue. The OECD’s report titled “Development Co-operation TIPS Tools Insights Practices,” which explores a development-friendly approach to repatriating stolen assets, highlights the case of Switzerland. The report underscores that Switzerland’s foreign policy is oriented towards promoting principles such as the rule of law, justice, transparency, and general welfare. Their strategy revolves around creating a practice and legal framework for recovery and restitution of assets embezzled by politically exposed individuals.

This strategy is rooted in collaborative partnerships between international agencies and non-governmental stake-holders, dedicated to the collective welfare of the population. As a concrete result of this approach, a noteworthy milestone was reached in 2017 when Switzerland, Nigeria, and the World Bank agreed on the return of US$ 321 million in Nigerian assets. This agreement was crafted to align with the aspirations of the Nigerian populace in general, Swiss authorities and Nigerian civil society. Following this collaboration Switzerland furthered its commitment to asset repatriation by signing analogous agreements with Turkmenistan and Peru in 2020, by adopting a similar approach.

In the wake of this accord, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court has paved the way for restitution of approximately US$ 8.5 million in assets acquired through corrupt means to Peru. According to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Switzerland has successfully repatriated roughly two billion dollars in illicitly obtained assets belonging to politically exposed persons (PEPs). Notable cases of asset tracing include the ongoing Duvalier case in Haiti (US$ 6.5 million), Turkmenistan in 2020 (US$ 1.3 million), Abacha II in Nigeria in 2017 (US$ 48 million), Angola II in 2012 (US$ 43 million), Kazakhstan I in 2007 (US$ 115 million), Angola I in 2005 (US$ 24 million), Abacha I in Nigeria in 2005 (US$ 700 million), Marcos in the Philippines in 2003 (US$ 684 million), and Montesinos I in Peru in 2002 (US$ 93 million).

Considering the points mentioned above, it has been judiciously determined that the paramount focus should be directed towards international cooperation and fortification of partnerships between agencies, with a noteworthy role played by organizations such as Interpol. Pakistan should dedicate its efforts to improving its legal framework. This entails not only refining regulations related to crowdfunding but also a comprehensive overhaul of policies governing NGOs.

Moreover, Pakistan must actively promote inter-agency collaboration and cultivate robust affiliations with international corporations to facilitate the repatriation of unlawfully acquired wealth associated with Pakistani nationals whose exposure to various leaks necessitates restitution. In the contemporary global context, there is a strong emphasis on ensuring transparency in beneficial ownership, and FATF is currently in the process of crafting updated, risk-based guidance about Recommendation 25.

For Pakistan to effectively combat the flow of illicit funds and ensure transparency, it must undertake a comprehensive review of its beneficial ownership legislation in alignment with international standards, tailoring the approach to accommodate each specific sector, including Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs). These strategic measures will significantly contribute to curbing the movement of illicit funds and, consequently augment our ranking on the global index.

Huzaima Bukhari, Dr Ikramul Haq and Abdul Rauf Shakoori, "FATF strategic initiatives & Pakistan," Business recorder. 2023-11-06.
Keywords: Economics , Financial action , Terrorism financing , Financial system , Domestic product , Global index , Nigeria , Pakistan , FATF , GAFILAT

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