There is a need to re-examine the anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) measures in West African countries to ensure they do not induce superficial compliance by countries, said the director general of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), Dr Abdullahi Shehu.
|Dr Abdullahi Shehu|
Dr Shehu observed that the current AML/CFT framework may force money launderers and extremist groups to make frequent tactical changes and thus produces more grievances or fertile grounds for the recruitment of new set of criminals.
Most parts of the AML/CFT framework of countries in the sub-region are products of imperfect and incomplete information, hence the need to establish and address the root causes of terrorism to ensure the successes recorded by the AML/CFT framework are enduring, Dr Shehu said while presenting a paper on the challenges of implementing counter-financing of terrorism regimes in West Africa at the training workshop on AML/CFT for North and West African states organised by the Swiss Confederation and the Federal Republic of Nigeria in collaboration with Giaba held in Abuja, Nigeria, from December 11 to 13, 2012.
“The benefits of implementing effective AML/CFT regimes are enormous,” the Giaba DG said. “Giaba will continue to support its members to implement effective AML/CFT measures that facilitate optimal deployment of resources and proper sequencing of intervention activities.”
For him, the adoption of international AML/CFT standards is not the magic wand towards eradicating money laundering and financing terrorism, but they are milestones towards building enabling framework that would provide the roadmap for achieving the ultimate goal of a crime-free society.
He said Giaba, an arm of ECOWAS established to fight money laundering and terrorist financing in West Africa, is mandated to develop strategies and mechanisms for the prevention and control of the twin crimes in the sub-region.
Low capacity hinders implementation of FATF Recommendations
All the West African countries which constitute GIABA Member States are facing daunting challenges of low technical know-how and the financial resources to implement the global standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), global pacesetters in the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing.
FATF has established a comprehensive, integrated and impact-oriented approach in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing but the Giaba DG pointed out that member countries could not go by the the uniform and consistent application of the global AML/CFT standards.
He said the rationale for this includes competing priorities for scarce government resources, severe lack of resources and skilled workforce to implement government programs - including AML/CFT programs, and overall weakness in legal institutions, make it difficult for member countries to fully implement the FAFT standards.
“Our member countries have been confronted with operating environment filled with social change and uncertainties, and a string of practical issues in the fight against ML/TF, such as good governance, corruption, incomprehensive and competing legislative system, and lagged financial system,” Dr Shehu said.
The Mutual Evaluation Reports (MERs), reports prepared by Giaba after assessing member countries conformity with international standards for preventing money laundering and financing of terrorism, provide for remedial actions and timelines to address identified deficiencies.
Giaba DG pointed out that the MERs reveal that some of the FATF Standards are not implemented at all. However, he said, most countries are making significant progress to address the identified deficiencies in their AML/CFT regimes.
The FATF Recommendations clearly encapsulate the various preventive measures that countries and stakeholder institutions are required to take.
The recommendations set out principles of actions by governments and their competent authorities, as well as permit flexibility in implementation with due regard to countries’ unique circumstances and constitutional framework.
The recommendations cover the following four broad areas: criminal justice system, financial system and its regulation, law enforcement and other competent authorities, and international cooperation.
Dr Shehu acknowledged the low level of compliance to the FATF Recommendation by Giaba member countries, saying it is reminiscent of the environmental peculiarities of the West African region.