Singapore Authority sets up AML department

June 13th, 2016

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has announced establishing a dedicated anti-money laundering department aimed to combat illicit financial activities.

The regulator will set up a dedicated supervisory team in order to monitor illicit financing risks as well as carry out onsite supervision of how financial institutions manage these risks.

Before, these functions were carried out by different departments in MAS. Now, the new structure is to enhance supervisory focus.

Ravi Menon, Managing Director of MAS, said: “We will strengthen our supervision of financial institutions’ controls to combat money laundering and illicit financing. And we will enhance our enforcement capability to deter poor controls or criminal behaviour in the industry”.

Football Star accused of Tax Evasion through offshore companies

June 2nd, 2016

Lionel Messi, a 28-year-old 5-time World Player of the Year, and his father Jorge Messi were accused of using offshore companies in Belize and Uruguay in order to avoid over EUR 4 million in tax.

In his and his father’s trial over tax evasion, Messi insisited that he did not make attempts to avoid paying taxes on EUR 4.16 million of his income earned through the sale of his image rights from 2007-2009

When giving testimony in the court in Barcelona, the Argentina skipper said: “I didn’t know anything, all I know about is playing football and winning.” He also said: “I only knew that sponsors would pay X amount of money, that I had to do adverts, photos and things like that.” He declared that he had never read anything but I would sign where the lawyers said.

Tax authorities are asking that both Leo and his father serve about 2 years in jail for the offence, but the public prosecutor is only pursuing Messi Sr.

Jorge Messi, Leo’s father and co-defendant, had earlier claimed that he didn’t realise the Belize company that managed image rights deals didn’t pay taxes in Spain, and that he never informed his son of the details of sponsorship deals. “Since the start of Leo’s career I only tried to make his life easier,” he said.

Belize to enhance Anti-Money Laundering

May 22nd, 2016

To strengthen the jurisdiction’s safeguards against financial crime, Belize’s Financial Intelligence Unit and Belize Police have signed a memorandum of understanding.

The memorandum will strengthen the existing cooperation and facilitate the analysis and investigation of suspected money laundering, associated offenses, and the financing of terrorism. Implementation of the document is expected to increase the potential sources of information available to both the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Police in their fight against crime. Also, joint operations between the authorities will be possible.

The Financial Intelligence Unit is the Belizean authority dealing with the enforcement and implementation of all anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulations and the prevention of domestic tax evasion.

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. “