Philippines among countries on money laundering watch list

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 28 2021 08:27 AM | Updated as of Jun 28 2021 06:11 PM

(UPDATED) Haiti, Malta, Philippines, and South Sudan have been placed on a "grey list" of countries under increased monitoring to counter money laundering and terrorist financing.

The Financial Action Task Force, an international organization that coordinates global efforts to crack down on money laundering and terrorism financing, said nations on the list are working with it to correct deficiencies in their financial systems.

The additions bring to 22 the number of countries currently under increased monitoring by the intergovernmental watchdog, which was created in 1989.

CONSEQUENCES 

Inclusion on the list can have negative consequences, making it more difficult to attract foreign investment.

The FATF has yet to impose counter measures, according to Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque. 

"Wala pa pong desisyon. Ibig sabihin lang nito – increased monitoring," he said in a press briefing.

"At tayo naman po ay nangako na ipatutupad iyong ating action plan," added the official. 

(There is no decision yet. This only means increased monitoring. And we promise that we will implement the action plan.)

The plan involves amending the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing, the enhancement of the Anti-Money Laundering) Council and supervisory framework, reinforcement of investigations and prosecution, and campaigns to increase public awareness said Roque.

"They will monitor our progress," the Palace official said. "We have not been put under negative list, pareho pa rin po tayo (we are the same), but they want to see further improvements." 

'UNJUST'? 

Malta is the only EU nation on the list dominated by African and Central American and Caribbean countries.

Malta's Prime Minister Robert Abela earlier this week criticized the FATF's decision, but he pledged to improve oversight on financial crimes.

"While I consider this decision as one which is unjust, our country will continue to build on the many reforms we have already done", Abela said.

"Instead of complaining, we will see this challenge as an opportunity", he told journalists, pledging to respect the watchdog's decision.

The move comes one month after the Council of Europe's anti-money laundering body, Moneyval, cited Malta's improvement in combating money laundering, according the country higher international compliance ratings in certain areas. 

For Malta, it could hit its gaming and banking sectors which are key to the economy. 

Malta has long been dogged by charges of laxity on corruption, the focus of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia's investigations before her 2017 murder. 

Two senior politicians were forced to step down following the 2016 international Panama Papers scandal that revealed widespread corruption and financial crime.

On Friday, the FATF removed Ghana from its grey list.

The FATF did not add or remove any countries from its "blacklist" of countries whose efforts to combat money laundering and terrorist financing are seen as seriously lacking.

Only Iran and North Korea are on the FATF's blacklist. 

Nations are urged to take steps to apply measures to protect the international financial system from risks from blacklist countries.

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