Abler's Newsletter - June 2023

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Career Fair launched to sensitise youth on job opportunities in the Financial Services sector

The second edition of the Financial Services Career Fair, aiming to regroup stakeholders of the financial services sector and create a better synergy to promote awareness and development of the financial services, was launched in the afternoon of June 23, at the Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Tower in Ebène. The Minister of Financial Services and Good Governance, Mr Mahen Kumar Seeruttun, and the Chief Executive of the Financial Services Commission (FSC), Mr Dhanesswurnath Thakoor, were present at the event. In a statement, Minister Seeruttun highlighted that financial services sector is the second most important sector of the Mauritian economy and offers multiple employment opportunities for the youth. He nonetheless deplored that young graduates are not well informed about the job prospects that are available in the sector, and observed that there is a huge gap between the employer and the employee on the job market.

Mauritius Finance holds post-budget 2023-24 panel discussion

The Minister of Financial Services and Good Governance, Mr Mahen Kumar Seeruttun, participated, in a post-budget 2023-24 panel discussion, organised by Mauritius Finance, at the Royal Green Wellness Resort, in Réduit, in the presence of several stakeholders. In his address, Minister Seeruttun highlighted that the objective of the panel discussion was to brainstorm and reflect on Budget 2023-24 presented on June 02. “During the budget speech, the Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development stated that the financial services sector is the second largest contributor to our GDP, and rightly so, as it is a sector that contributes to 13.6 % of the GDP and employs more than 15,000 people,” he pointed out. According to the Financial Services Minister, this budget was a new impetus to the economic sector and the investor community. “Whilst the previous budgets, in 2021 and 2022, have helped the sector to rapidly recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, this budget caters for the next phase of development, which is the growth and sustainability of our financial services sector,” he said.

Financial Services Sector: Officers trained on Targeted Financial Sanctions and Supervision

An official ceremony was organised on June 20, at the FSC House in Ebène, in the context of a training workshop on Targeted Financial Sanctions and Supervision aiming to improve effectiveness of the Anti-Money Laundering/Combatting the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Framework held for officers of supervisory and law enforcement authorities from June 15-20. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Financial Services and Good Governance, Mr Sarwansingh Purmessur; the Second Deputy Governor of the Bank of Mauritius, Mrs Hemlata Sadhna Sewraj-Gopal; the British High Commissioner to Mauritius, Ms Charlotte Pierre; and the Chief Executive of the Financial Services Commission (FSC), Mr Dhanesswurnath Thakoor, were present. The training is an initiative of the Ministry of Financial Services and Good Governance in collaboration with His Majesty’s Treasury of United Kingdom (UK), the National Sanction Secretariat and the Inter-Agency Coordination Committee (ICC).

Pan African Central Bank Conference on Risk and Reserve Management hosted by Bank of Mauritius

The closing ceremony of the Pan African Central Bank Conference on Risk and Reserve Management, hosted by the Bank of Mauritius (BoM) from June 20-22 June, organised in collaboration with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Allianz Global Investors, was held on June 22 in Port-Louis. The two-day Conference was attended by central bankers from a wide range of African countries, delegations from training programmes, international experts and speakers who shared their experiences and discussed today's challenges and future opportunities in Central Bank Reserve Management from an African perspective. In his address on the occasion, the Governor of the BoM, Mr Harvesh Kumar Seegolam, lauded the initiative of the GIZ and Allianz Global Investors in bringing together the Southern African Development Community region to discuss a subject matter, which he emphasised has become high on the agenda of all central banks, in particular after COVID-19.

Mauritius Post Foreign Exchange Co Ltd launches Integrated FOREX Application System and Money Changing Service

The Mauritius Post Foreign Exchange (MPFE) Co Ltd Integrated FOREX Application System (FinTech and RegTech) and money changing services, were launched on June 08, by the Minister of Information Technology, Communication and Innovation, Mr Deepak Balgobin, at the headquarters of the Mauritius Post Office in Port-Louis. The Chairman and the Managing Director of the MPFE, Mr Vireshwar Rambhujun, and Mr Jayram Naggea, and other personalities were present at the launching ceremony. In his address, Minister Balgobin recalled that the financial sector is one of the most important pillars of the country’s economy. He indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic and Russian-Ukraine war impacted on the FOREX services, highlighting that the MPFE has strived to overcome the challenges and maintain a growing position in the Mauritian market.


UAE and Malta exchange experiences in Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism

The Ministry of Economy organised a training workshop, held jointly by the UAE and Malta, from June 12-15, to enhance cooperation and facilitate the exchange of experiences between the two countries in the field of Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT). The workshop was held in the presence of Abdullah bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy; Maria Camilleri, Ambassador of Malta to the UAE; Ministry of Economy representatives, the National Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism and Financing of Illegal Organisations Committee; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the AML/CFT Executive Office. Additionally, representatives of regulatory authorities and licensing authorities in the country, including financial and commercial free zones also attended the workshop. In his opening speech, Al Marri said, “The UAE is keen to strengthen partnerships and exchange expertise and experiences with our global partners in various fields, especially economic ones, to achieve common development goals.

UAE central bank issues AML/CTF guidance for dealing with virtual assets

The UAE Central Bank has issued new anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing guidance for financial institutions when dealing with virtual assets, such as cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens, it said on Wednesday, May 31. The new guidance discusses the risks arising from dealing with virtual assets and virtual asset service providers, including on due diligence for licensed financial institutions when dealing with these customers and counterparties, the statement said.

Financial institutions urged to comply with UAE virtual assets AML guidance

Financial institutions operating in the UAE will soon have to demonstrate compliance with the new anti-money laundering (AML) requirements set out by the Central Bank of UAE (CBUAE), which have a particular focus on risks related to virtual assets and virtual asset service providers. The CBUAE’s guidance (44-page / 998 KB PDF) for licensed financial institutions on risks related to virtual assets (VAs) and virtual asset service providers (VASPs) will come into force in July 2023. The guidance primarily focuses on risks in relation to money laundering and combatting the financing of terrorism (CFT). Financial services experts Tom Bicknell and Barkha Doshi of Pinsent Masons pointed out that financial institutions licensed to operate in the UAE would only have one month to comply with the requirements contained in the guidance from its effective day.

UAE imposes Dh65.9 million fines on 137 firms for not following anti-money laundering rules

In the first quarter of 2023, the Ministry of Economy imposed fines worth Dh65.9 million on 137 companies operating in the UAE's designated non-financial business or professions (DNFBP) sector, following an inspection of 840 companies for failing to comply with the anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) legislation. The initiative falls in line with the Ministry's efforts to ensure the sector's full compliance with the provisions stipulated by Federal Decree-Law No. 20 of 2018 on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism and illegal organisations and its executive regulations and related laws. Adherence to the law is necessary to ensure the country's full compliance with the international standards issued by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2022 Article IV Consultation with United Arab Emirates

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the 2022 Article IV consultation [1] with the United Arab Emirates. UAE economic growth strengthened in 2022, benefitting from a rapid and effective COVID response, supportive fiscal measures, and the benefits of earlier social and business-friendly reforms. Overall growth is expected to reach 6.9 percent in 2022, with non-hydrocarbon GDP growth of 5.3 percent and hydrocarbon GDP is expected to grow by 11.1 percent in 2022, following the OPEC+ agreement. Major efforts have been advanced under the National AML/CFT Strategy and Action Plan to further strengthen the regulatory regime to ensure its effectiveness, in line with the enhanced monitoring under the Financial Action Task Force recommendations.


FATF warns several jurisdictions not to miss further AML deadlines

The Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) latest plenary meeting has noted that several jurisdictions have not yet met the agreed deadlines for tightening their anti-money laundering (AML) regulations in accordance with FATF's recommendations. The jurisdictions in question are Barbados, Burkina Faso, Gibraltar, Jamaica, the Philippines, Senegal, South Sudan, Turkey, and Uganda. FATF has advised them to 'swiftly demonstrate significant progress' or, in some cases, risk the imposition of special measures. Such measures could include enhanced due diligence on their business transactions with other jurisdictions.

FATF flags Cameroon, Croatia, Vietnam on AML/CFT watchlist

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) added Cameroon, Croatia, and Vietnam as part of the latest updates to its so-called “grey list” of jurisdictions under increased monitoring for money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing. The designations, announced in a press release Friday, June 23, bring to 26 the list of countries working with the global money laundering and terrorism financing watchdog to resolve deficiencies identified in their anti-financial crime regimes.

Qatar slammed for not taking enough action against crypto companies

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has slammed Qatar Central Bank (QCB) for making little effort to enforce its own regulations prohibiting virtual asset service providers. In a report published on May 31, the global money-laundering and terrorist financing watchdog highlighted that Qatar needs to advance its capabilities to effectively combat evolving forms of criminal activity, including sanctioning virtual asset service providers. “It needs to improve understanding of more complex forms of money laundering and terrorist financing,” it stated.

Philippines retained in global dirty money grey list

Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has retained the Philippines on its grey list for the second straight year due to the country’s failure to adequately address the gaps in its regime to counter money laundering as well as terrorist and proliferation financing. FATF president T. Raja Kumar of Singapore said the Philippines remains on the list of jurisdictions under increased monitoring after missing the January 2023 deadline as it has yet to address eight out of the 18 deficiencies in its anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) controls. “The Philippines entered the grey list in June 2021 but its action plan actually expired in January this year and eight of 18 action items remain outstanding. So, this is not a small number,” Kumar said in response to a query from The STAR.

Offshore hubs have made progress fighting money laundering, says int’l watchdog

The G7's Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said that Panama and the Cayman Islands have clear efforts to improve their financial oversight protocols. Panama and the Cayman Islands have made substantial progress in enhancing their anti-money laundering (AML) and terrorism financing controls and could soon be taken off the ‘grey list’ of jurisdictions blackballed for lax financial controls, according to the G7’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Both jurisdictions were praised by the international financial watchdog for having successfully implemented a slew of controls to improve the monitoring of their financial systems as part of an action plan developed in tandem with the FATF.

Albania Makes Strides in Enhancing AML/CFT Measures, Reports MONEYVAL

Albania has demonstrated some advances in its fight against money laundering and terrorist financing (AML/CFT), according to the latest follow-up report by MONEYVAL. The report, released on June 21, highlights Albania’s enhanced compliance with two crucial Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Recommendation 25, on transparency and beneficial ownership of legal arrangements, and (Recommendation 28), focusing on the regulation and supervision of designated non-financial businesses and professions.

Improvements in Slovenia’s AML progress says MONEYVAL report; ‘minor deficiencies’ remain

Slovenia has “improved” its measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, according to a follow-up report published on June 26 by the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering body MONEYVAL.

Google Cloud launches AI-powered anti-money laundering product

Google Cloud has unveiled its Anti Money Laundering AI (AML AI), an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered product designed to help global financial institutions more effectively and efficiently detect money laundering. Google Cloud’s AML AI provides a consolidated machine learning (ML)-generated customer risk score as an alternative to rules-based transaction alerting. The risk score is based on the bank’s data including transactional patterns, network behaviour, and Know Your Customer (KYC) data to identify instances and groups of high-risk retail and commercial customers. The product can adapt to changes in underlying data, delivering more accurate results, which increases overall programme effectiveness and improves operational efficiency. Google Cloud’s AML AI is using proprietary ML technology as well as Google Cloud technologies, such as Vertex AI and BigQuery. The product handles the complexities of running ML at scale, while also providing enriched explanations of the outputs to enable financial institutions to expedite the investigation workflow and improve the customer experience.

Bank of Lithuania revokes licence of electronic money institution for ‘serious’ shortcomings

The Bank of Lithuania has revoked the license of electronic money institution, UAB PAYRNET for systematic and multiple violations of laws. The institution must return the funds to its clients within the set time limit if it is no longer able to provide financial services. The Bank of Lithuania will initiate bankruptcy proceedings against the institution.

Criminal money: Council and European Parliament reach deal on access to financial information

The presidency and the European Parliament on June 06 reached a provisional agreement on a proposed EU law to speed up and ease the access of national authorities to financial information. Access to financial information is an important instrument in financial investigations and in efforts to trace and confiscate the proceeds of crime. In order to comply with a soon-to-be-adopted anti-money laundering directive, EU countries will have to make information from centralised bank account registers available through a single access point. The centralised bank account registers contain data on who has which bank account and where. Thanks to the agreement reached, not only national financial intelligence units (FIUs), but also national authorities dealing with criminal offences, will have access to these registers through this single access point.

6+ British banks to share fincrime and AML information in ‘game changer’ PPP; Lloyds, NatWest already involved in trials

British banks are to share information between the institutions to crack down on the country’s money laundering problem and illicit asset flows from Russia. AML Intelligence has learned the banks are gearing up to share more data with their peers on suspected serious economic crime as part of wider efforts to stem dirty money flows into the country. Sources described the two projects as “game changers.” More than half a dozen banks are already in advanced talks with British law enforcement and government agencies on plans to systematically share intelligence on major financial crimes such as money laundering and terrorism financing in two landmark pilots expected to launch within months.

EBA proposes extension of anti-money laundering rules to crypto services

The European Banking Authority (EBA) has started a public consultation to review its guidelines on money laundering and terrorist financing risk factors. According to EBA, the proposed amendments are set to include crypto-asset service providers (CASPs) within their scope. The consultation is open until August 31, inviting feedback on the significant ML/TF risks that CASPs and other financial institutions may be exposed to. CASPs pose a heightened risk profile due to the use of innovative technologies, the ability for instant worldwide transfers of crypto assets, and services that incorporate privacy-enhancing features. EBA’s proposed amendments aim to establish common regulatory expectations for the measures CASPs need to implement to identify and mitigate these risks effectively.

Australia: Strategic plan set to expand licensing and regulatory oversight of payment industry

In the week starting June 12, in announcing its Strategic Plan for Australia’s Payments System (Strategic Plan) Treasury has provided the clearest direction to date on how it plans to modernise and revamp the regulatory framework for payments in Australia. It outlines the Australian Government’s key priorities and initiatives for modernising and regulating payments systems in coming years. This announcement follows a very broad consultation on its strategic plan released earlier in the year and a number of reviews undertaken in this space. It also follows the announcement of Treasury’s intention to adapt the existing credit licensing framework to regulate Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) providers.

CFT and New Tech: latest UNSR Report on the regulatory response and its potential impacts

The United Nations Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism has just published this report on International Human Rights Law Considerations for Counter-Terrorism Financing Regulation of Crowdfunding, Virtual Assets and New Payment Technologies. This is in keeping with the focus of the UNSR's mandate on delving into and interrogating the 'intersection of countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) measures and State obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law'. This report looks at the regulatory response to these novel CFT issues, including potential human rights consequences as well as the impacts on civil society and its operational environment.

Bank Customers to Submit Facebook, Twitter Handles Under CBN Anti-Money Laundering, Terrorism Regulations

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has directed Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and other financial institutions in the country to obtain the social media handles, residential addresses, Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) and other vital information of their customers. The directive, contained in a ‘Central Bank of Nigeria (Customer Due Diligence) Regulations, 2023’ document, according to the apex bank, is necessary, “To provide additional customer due diligence measures for financial institutions under the regulatory purview of the Central Bank of Nigeria, to further their compliance with relevant provisions of the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Act (MLPPA), 2022, Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act (TPPA), 2022, Central Bank of Nigeria (Anti-Money Laundering, Combatting the Financing of Terrorism and Countering Proliferation Financing of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Financial Institutions) Regulations, 2022 (CBN AML, CFT and CPF Regulations) and international best practices.”

European Union: Europe adopts comprehensive crypto legal framework

After several years of intense debate, during its session on May 16, the European Council finally approved the Regulation on Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA).1 The EU’s first legal framework for crypto now only requires publication in the Official Journal of the European Union, which is expected to happen any time soon. MiCA brings a substantial change to the EU regulatory landscape, creating a harmonised regime in terms of issuance and the provision of services in relation to crypto-assets, consistent with the international reach of this technology. Assuming that publication takes place shortly, an estimated timetable for MiCA’s implementation would likely see the rules on the issuance of asset-referenced tokens and e-money tokens applying from June or July 2024, while other provisions would apply from approximately December or January 2025.

Eurojust hosts first expert meeting on Money Laundering and Asset Recovery

Eurojust held its first-ever conference on Money Laundering and Asset Recovery at its premises in The Hague, on June 19 and 20. The agency said participants developed a common approach to tackle the increasing crime of money laundering and to improve the recovery of assets by gathering the broadest group of specialists.

Singapore fines banks for AML breaches in Wirecard affair

Singapore has slapped three banks and an insurer with fines for anti-money laundering breaches connected with the Wirecard scandal. Citibank, DBS, OCBC and Swiss Life were penalised a combined S$3.8 million by the Monetary Authority of Singapore for breaches of AML/CFT requirements. The breaches were identified during MAS examinations following news of irregularities relating to Wirecard’s financial statements and the alleged involvement of Singapore-based individuals and entities in the matter. These firms were found to have inadequate controls in place when they dealt with people involved in transactions with, or had links to, Wirecard or its related parties. MAS says it did not find wilful misconduct by any staff at the four companies, which have all taken action to improve their operations and have all accepted the penalties.

Binance flees Netherlands as authorities investigate ‘aggravated’ money laundering allegation

Binance has fled the Netherlands after failing to win a license, while its French permit could be in jeopardy, as prosecutors suspect committed ‘aggravated’ money laundering. The world’s biggest digital assets exchange announced a “notice on changes of services in the Netherlands”, stated Coin Geek.

Hundreds of businesses fined a total of £3.2 million for breaching anti-money laundering rules

The 240 supervised businesses named on June 25 were fined between 1 July and 31 December 2022 by HMRC for breaching Money Laundering Regulations aimed at preventing criminals from exploiting illicit cash. Certain types of business are required to register with HMRC which is a supervisory body for Money Laundering Regulations. Xpress Money Services Ltd, based in London, was hit with a large fine of £1.4 million for failing to carry out risk assessments, not having appropriate anti-money laundering controls, and failing to conduct proper due diligence checks. HMRC’s work with other enforcement agencies and government departments to tackle economic crime and crack down on breaches is working to drive non-compliant firms out of business. This means that the number of money service businesses has fallen by around a third from 1,508 in 2020 to 1,049 in 2023, and the number of money service business agents has reduced from 35,507 to 30,217 in the same period.

The former head of car supplier Magna International, Austrian businessman Siegfried Wolf, was charged by an Austrian court on Monday, June 05, on suspicion of money laundering in connection with the purchase of Eurofighter jets two decades ago.