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Deficiencies in Anti-Money Laundering regime

  • Despite progress, blacklisting looms

KATHMANDU, DEC 29 - Although Nepal has been categorised among the countries that are making progress in addressing deficiencies in their Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes, its failure to introduce the ‘Act on Organised Crime’ has increased the risk of being downgraded to the ‘dark grey list’ or being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental global anti-money laundering body. Nepal is currently on the ‘grey list’.

Nepal had promised to introduce three Acts—Act on Organised Crime, Mutual Legal Assistance Act and Act on Extradition Treaty—within 2010, but the government has so far been able to introduce only two Acts. The Mutual Legal Assistance Act and the Act on Extradition Treaty were brought thorough ordinance in June 2012.

After the endorsement of the two anti-money laundering (AML) bills, Nepal had received one more year (until June 2012) to address its AML/CFT deficiencies.

With political parties expressing reservations over the ordinance on organised crime, it was not sent to the President for endorsement in June. Now, senior government officials say the country’s failure to introduce the Act may prove risky.

Among the major jobs that Nepal needs to complete are the endorsement of the bill on organised crime, amendments to the Act on Anti-money Laundering and automation of the Financial Information Unit (FIU) at the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB). Despite the central bank’s effort, work on FIU automation hasn’t been moved ahead.

“Whether the FATF will continue to keep Nepal among the countries making progress or downgrade will be based on the progress made in introducing this Act,” said NRB Deputy Governor Maha Prasad Adhikari.

The FATF has long been blaming Nepal’s AML/CFT deficiencies for its ‘failure to criminalise’ money laundering and terrorist financing.

The next FATF plenary is scheduled to be held in February 2013. But before the FATF plenary, Nepal has to take part in the meeting of the Regional Review Group (RRG), a body of the International Regional Review Group (ICRG) that analyses risks to international financial system due to AML/CFT deficiencies of certain countries.

The RRG meeting is scheduled to take place in Hong Kong on January 17, for which Nepal has already sent a progress report. Based on Nepal’s progress report and outcome of the face-to-face between the two sides, RRG will send its report to ICRG and FATF.

“This meeting is crucial as FATF’s decision in February will be based on ICRG’s reporting,” said Adhikari.

Central bank officials said RRG had asked Nepal to act faster on introducing the Act on Organised Crime during the face-to-face held in Australia a few months ago.

If blacklisted, Nepali financial institutions will lose their credibility in the international arena and foreign banks may not approve the letters of credit issued by Nepali banks. The blacklisting will also diminish Nepal’s prospects of getting foreign aid and investment.

In its progress report sent to RRG, Nepal has included the progress made so far, including the AML directive issued by central bank and five-year strategic plan, among others. “However, it may not be enough and we may have to be defensive when it comes to the Act on Organised Crime,” said Dharma Raj Sapkota, chief of the NRB’s FIU that keeps records of suspicious financial transactions.

With RRG meeting inching closer, the Finance Ministry has started consultations over the issue and a meeting has been planned on Sunday.

FATF is more concerned about the introduction of necessary laws to criminalise money laundering and terrorist financing. “They don’t care about Nepal’s limitations and ask why the law could not be passed when the state is functioning,” said Adhikari.

The FATF’s  October plenary had pointed out some of Nepal’s AML/CFT deficiencies, including criminalising money laundering and terrorist financing; establishing and implementing adequate procedures to identify and freeze terrorist assets and confiscate them, enacting and implementing appropriate mutual legal assistance legislation; ensuring a fully operational and effectively functioning of FIU; and establishing adequate suspicious transaction reporting obligations.

“Despite the endorsement of the mutual legal assistance ordinance, the FATF has told the government that the law is not of international standards,” said Sapkota, adding the FATF had sent a letter to the Finance Minister on November 2 to make the Act of international standards. “As the Act does not allow sharing of information with the countries with which Nepal has not signed extradition treaty, FATF termed it deficient,” said Sapkota.

Nepal had narrowly avoided a blacklisting in February 2012 during FATF plenary in Paris. Intense last minute diplomatic efforts both in Kathmandu and Paris had rescued Nepal then.


Posted on: 2012-12-30 09:08

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