FATF experts team to review Pak’s progress on global standards against financial crimes

FATF experts team to review Pak’s progress on global standards against financial crimes
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Islamabad: A group of experts from the Financial Action Task Force will review whether Pakistan has made enough progress on global standards against financial crimes to warrant its exclusion from the watchdog’s grey list.

The Paris-based global body is working to curb terrorism financing and money laundering and has asked Pakistan to reassess the operation of banned terrorist outfits in the country. Pakistan is under intense international pressure to rein in terror groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) after the Pulwama terror attack.

In June last year, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) had placed Pakistan on the grey list of countries whose domestic laws are considered weak to tackle the challenges of money laundering and terrorism financing.

The delegation of the Asia-Pacific Group (APG) will arrive here on Monday and meet officials this week to see progress to warrant Pakistan’s exclusion from the watchdog’s grey list, the Dawn reported.

The meetings will start on Tuesday and will end on Thursday, Finance Ministry’s spokesman, Dr Khaqan H Najeeb, said.

He said the APG assessment team would meet officials from the State Bank of Pakistan, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Election Commis sion of Pakistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, National Counter Terrorism Authority, law enforcement agencies and counter terrorism departments.

In response to a question, he said the experts from the ministries and other key institutions would get an opportunity to explain and convince the assessors about Pakistan’s performance.

The country has taken certain steps since the February 18-22 meetings with FATF functionaries to comply with latest instructions to meet various deadlines in order to avoid being included in a blacklist.

It declared as high risk all the eight entities and related elements specifically named by FATF as threats to the global financial system.

Achieving 27 targets under a 10-point action plan has now become a top priority for the Imran Khan-led government.

Pakistan has written to FATF President Marshall Billingslea to appoint any other member as co-chair of the Asia-Pacific’s Joint Group, in place of India, to ensure that the FATF review process is fair, unbiased and objective.

The Joint Group is a sub-body of the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) of the APG. Pakistan is a member of the APG and its case is being presented before the FATF by the APG. 

India’s Financial Intelligence Unit’s (FIU) director general is the co-chair of the Joint Group.

As the FATF meetings were in progress in February, the government had announced a ban on Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FiF) to partially address the concerns raised by India that Pakistan supported these and six other similar organisations, including Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), or at least considered them low-risk entities, and then declared them high risk ones.

Under the high risk category, the government is required to start monitoring and re-examining the groups’ activities and profiles under heightened security checks at all layers of legal, administrative, investigative and financial regimes, the paper reported.

All these entities are now subject to greater scrutiny by all agencies and institutions of the state regarding their activities starting from registration to operations and from fund collection to bank accounts and issuance of transactions.

The government has so far fined six banks and started investigations against 109 bankers for opening fake’ bank accounts. 

About 8,707 suspicious transaction reports (STRs) were issued last year by the Financial Monitoring Unit, showing almost 57 per cent growth over the 5,548 STRs issued in 2017.

About 1,100 STRs were issued in January and February this year alone. Smuggled currency and jewellery worth more than Rs20 billion were confiscated between July and Jan 31, up 66 per cent from Rs12bn a year ago.

Memorandums of understanding are being signed with the UK, Qatar, the UAE and Australia for sharing of intelligence, the paper said.

Pakistan is also trying to improve coordination among different agencies of the government through centralised software, the paper reported.