FATF team arrives to examine steps taken against terror financing

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will try to convince on Monday a nine-member visiting team of global experts through its legal and institutional systems and framework to establish that it has done enough to block terror financing through money laundering and illegal remittances, including Hundi and Hawala.

The team of the Asia Pacific Group (APG) — an arm of the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force — arrived here on Sunday to begin a 12-day “on-site inspection” of the country. The team will review systems, networks and mechanisms of various institutions and agencies to ascertain if Pakistan was following through on its global commitment to get out of the FATF grey list.

The on-site inspection will verify actions taken and progress made by Islamabad.

The APG delegation comprises experts from British Scotland Yard, US Department of Treasury, Financial Intelligence Unit of Maldives, Indonesian Ministry of Finance, Peoples’ Bank of China, Justice Department of Turkey and three members of the APG will stay here and review progress made by authorities on a 10-point action plan it was given in June this year to address global concerns.

The FATF decided in February to place Pakistan on its grey list in June on a campaign pushed through by the United States and its European allies for allegedly not doing enough to ban UN- and US-designated religious organisations and rein in their activities.

The ministries of interior, finance, foreign affairs and law besides the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU), Central Directorate of National Savings and provincial counter-terrorism departments would remain available for briefings and explanations.

Last week, the government announced that it had finalised amendments to relevant laws — Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Act, 1974, Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947(FERA), Customs Act, 1969, and Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010, that would be presented to the prime minister and his cabinet for approval.

Under the proposed changes, punishments on account of illegal financial transactions at home and abroad have been increased to a minimum of three years imprisonment and up to 10 years along with fines going up to Rs50 million each and attachment of properties for up to six months instead of 90 days. The proposed changes also allow access of bank accounts to FIA and other law-enforcement agencies.

The then government negotiated a 10-point action plan to meet about 40 standards of the FATF by September 2019 to get out of the grey list.

In August this year, the APG as part of the pre-site mutual evaluation identified a series of deficiencies in Pakistan’s anti-money laundering/counter-terror financing laws and mechanisms.

The two sides would jointly go through technical compliance through various legislative, administrative and regulatory instruments. There are some tough tasks also relating to extradition treaties Pakistan has signed with other countries or where these treaties do not exist at all so far and how these could be revised to include AML/CFT offences.

The APG had explained to Pakistan deficiencies in its systems, agencies and laws to meet its global obligations against money laundering and terror financing and said that that legal mechanisms governing non-profit and charitable organisations, transparency in the beneficial ownership regime and counter-terror financing mechanisms to handle suspicious transaction reports (STRs) were not enough.

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