FATF grants Israel observer status

February 26th, 2016

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has announced that Israel will join the organization as an observer starting June 2016.

The admission is a significant step in the application process for joining the prestigious group, which sets the global rules for combating money laundering and terror financing. Joining the authority will allow Israel to participate in shaping global policy and position it as one of the leading countries in the international fight against money laundering and terror financing. Also, the announcement is to support the Israeli economy by providing the country an unofficial stamp of approval for its financial sector.

Israel’s Money Laundering and Terror Financing Prohibition Authority chief Dr. Shlomit Wagman-Ratner said: “The decision to accept Israel into the FATF – an important, prestigious, and influential group – reflects the contribution of Israel to the global fight against money laundering and terror financing and signals that Israel is a leading country with expertise in the sector.”

Angola removed from Money Laundering Blacklist

February 20th, 2016

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has removed Angola from its blacklist of jurisdictions that fail to meet international standards.

The FATF added this southern African country to the list in 2010. The Angolan central bank said the FATF’s decision came after the country implemented reforms that included licensing of banks and setting up a Financial Intelligence Unit, which collects information on suspicious or unusual financial activity.

The removal is expected to improve the credit quality and financial institutions of Angola.

Last year, the risk of financial crime and difficulty in monitoring clients forced Standard Chartered to announce it had ended its dollar-clearing operations with commercial banks in Angola. Bank of America also stopped selling Angolan banks the greenback from the beginning of December 2015.

Australia considers tighter AML rules for real estate and gems

January 25th, 2016

Australia is considering tightening its anti-money laundering regulations to include real estate agents and precious stone dealers, following red flags from a global watchdog over potential illicit cash entering the country.

While tighter regulations would not be aimed at inflows from any one country, Australian authorities are reacting following a surge of cash from wealthy Chinese buyers looking for a safe haven away from the market turmoil of their home markets. Purchases of pink diamonds by Chinese have increased. About 70% of Chinese real estate buyers pay in cash.

According to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a lack of scrutiny by Australian authorities in the property and precious stones sectors was “an increasing high risk” in the global fight against money laundering and financing of extremists.

Australia’s Attorney General’s Department, responsible for the country’s law and justice framework, is reviewing its rules to address those concerns, people familiar with the plans said. The rules already cover banking, remittance and gaming.

US regulator tells Scotiabank to fix AML Deficiencies

November 14th, 2015

US regulators are compelling Bank of Nova Scotia, Canada’s third-largest bank by assets, to overhaul its anti-money- laundering (AML) controls to correct “deficiencies” in the lender’s compliance program.

Toronto-based Scotiabank has entered into a written agreement with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the New York State Department of Financial Services to fix problems ranging from oversight to the monitoring of suspicious activity.

The written agreement released by the New York Fed did not include any monetary penalties against the bank.

It should be noted that the enforcement action comes at a time when Canadian banks are facing increased pressure from global regulators to root out potential sources of money laundering and terrorist financing from their operations.

Scotiabank spokesman Andrew Chornenky said that the bank has a strong risk-management culture. He added: “Scotiabank is firmly committed to global Anti-Money-Laundering standards and serious about fixing the issues identified by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.”

As part of its agreement with the New York Fed, Scotiabank has agreed to start a review of its New York agency’s wire- transfer activity over a period spanning July 1, 2014, to December 31, 2014. The purpose of the review is to “determine whether suspicious activity involving high risk customers and transactions at, by, or through the Agency was properly identified and reported in accordance with applicable suspicious activity reporting regulations,” the agreement stated.

Swiss Government Adopts New Anti-money Laundering Rules

November 11th, 2015

On November 11, 2015, the government of Switzerland adopted new rules aimed to clamp down on money laundering as the country seeks to cast off its reputation as a haven for hidden cash.

The new rules, which follow recommendations by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) last year, establish fresh due diligence requirements for traders when they accept cash payments of more than 100,000 Swiss francs (USD 99,500).

According to the statement made by the Swiss government, they also change the way in which religious foundations are registered in Switzerland and will come into force at the start of the year 2016.

Switzerland was reminded of its reputation as a place for the wealthy to hide assets this year when media outlets published leaked documents suggesting HSBC’s Swiss private bank helped customers dodge taxes.

In June, the Swiss banking association had said that the country’s banks would beef up anti-money laundering measures through transparency rules due to come into force next year.

Money laundering to become difficult in next 1-2 years, Indian Finance Minister says

November 5th, 2015

According to Arun Jaitley, Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs, Information, and Broadcasting in the Government of India, tax evasion and money laundering will become extremely difficult in the future. He warned lawbreakers that real-time global automatic exchange of information system will come into effect.

Indian finance minister said: “I am quite certain that the activity is going on in that direction and the next 1-2 years are also going to bring significant results because with almost real-time exchange of information, lives are going to become extremely difficult as far as lawbreakers in that regard are concerned,” the minister said in his inaugural speech at international conference on ‘Networking the Networks’.

Jaitley noted that tax evasion and stashing away illegal money anywhere in the world is becoming increasingly difficult after a G20 initiative that is being taken up by various international institutions.

The initiative, firmed at the Australia summit of G20 last November, is a new global arrangement under which countries will begin automatic exchange of tax information in stages beginning April 1, 2017. India, one of the early adopters, will begin sharing from the first date. Also, the OECD has recently announced the rules for the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) framework, which seeks to ensure that trans-nationals pay tax at least at some place.

UK fraud office looking at potential Money Laundering in World Cup bids

October 28th, 2015

Officials are investigating potential offenses relating to 2018, 2022 World Cup bids.

David Green said the SFO had no jurisdiction to go after FIFA under bribery laws but that there may have been potential money-laundering offenses. One of these involved a £270,000 payment (USD 414,000) payment by the Australia 2022 bid committee to Jack Warner which may have gone through London.

He also said that the SFO had no powers to act against FIFA officials who had solicited money or favors from England’s 2018 World Cup bid from the evidence obtained so far – but that attempts to procure a copy of the Garcia report into World Cup bidding had been unsuccessful.

Green said: “We are still examining issues around possible money laundering and I won’t be able to go into detail as new information has come to us quite recently.” As to the Australia payment, he said: “I cannot confirm the assertion that money went through London – it certainly started off in Sydney and appears to have ended up in Trinidad. It could be money-laundering yes. Whether the money came through London is important. “

Swiss banks to harden AML measures

June 30th, 2015

According to the Swiss banking association, Switzerland’s banks will beef up anti-money laundering measures. This was announced weeks after a report by a government-appointed group found the Alpine nation was still vulnerable to financial crime.

More transparent rules are to come into force in 2016 to make it harder for criminals to hide their money in companies or schemes with obscure ownership structures.

The measures were announced as Switzerland investigates alleged corruption at Zurich-based FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, in connection with World Cup bids. United States’ prosecutors are also investigating alleged money laundering schemes by soccer officials.

The Swiss Bankers Association said in a statement that fighting against money laundering and terrorist financing are central issues for the Swiss financial centre. It announced that from 2016, bank would face a new requirement to identify the controlling owner of legal entities and private companies. This would mean any individual with a stake of more than 25% or exercising effective control. If no one who meets these criteria, banks must instead identify the highest-ranking employee.

The announcement follows a report this month from a Swiss interdepartmental group on combating money laundering and terrorism financing, in which it recommended measures to improve rules tackling financial crime.

Italy amends Black Lists of countries as regards tax information exchange

April 7th, 2015

On April 1, Italy’s Minister of the Economy and Finance, Pier Carlo Padoan, signed 2 decrees that modify Italy’s “black lists,” and announced on the same day that Italy and the Vatican had signed their previously agreed tax information exchange agreement (TIEA).

The 2 decrees follow the guidelines laid down in Italy’s 2015 Stability (Budget) Law, which established amended criteria for the production of 2 black lists that is expected to boost economic connections with foreign countries.

Under the framework of Italy’s controlled foreign company (CFC) regime, the black list includes territories that do not have an adequate TIEA with Italy and if they have an effective corporate tax rate that is at least 50% lower than the effective tax rate that would be applicable if the company was an Italian resident.

The Stability Law specified another black list under which expenses incurred in transactions with residents in a jurisdiction would not be deductible. For this list, the criterion that such a jurisdiction should not have a privileged tax regime has been eliminated, leaving only the presence of an adequate TIEA with Italy as the determining factor.

The “non-deductibility of costs” list now therefore includes only 46 tax jurisdictions. 21 have been cancelled as already having TIEAs in effect. They are as follows: Alderney, Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man, Gibraltar, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, Belize, Bermuda, Costa Rica, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Malaysia, Mauritius, Montserrat, and Singapore.

This second list still includes Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Monaco, despite the fact that all have recently signed TIEAs with Italy. At the time it was indicated that completion of those TIEAs would be a prerequisite for Italians with undeclared assets in those countries to be able to enter into Italy’s current voluntary disclosure program.

AML/CFT Workshop to be held in Seychelles

August 1st, 2014

The Centre for Legal Business Studies (CLBS) with the support of the Seychelles’ Financial Services Authority (FSA), will be hosting an Advanced Workshop on Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing. The event will be held on August 11-12, 2014 at the Le Meridien Fishermen’s Cove Hotel, Bel Ombre, Seychelles.

As Anti-money Laundering & Counter Financing (AML/CFT) compliance has become increasingly complex, level of examiner expectations has become corresponding. AS a result, there is a need for seasoned compliance personnel to learn and to know how to put in practice.

The workshop will provide an up to date, current regulatory information, particularly in the areas of risk assessments, suspicious activity surveillance, customer due diligence, impact from emerging products/services, vendor management, and increasing Anti-money Laundering and Counter Financing program expectations.