Under the Presidency of the Sultanate of Oman, MENAFATF concluded today (Thursday 26 November 2015) its 22nd Plenary Meeting which was held in Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain from 24 to 26 November 2015.
AML/CFT experts representing 16 member countries (Jordan, UAE, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iraq, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt and Morocco) and the following observer countries as well as regional and international organizations (Republic of France, United States of America, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Financial Action Task Force, the United Nations, Egmont Group, Arab Monetary Fund and Eurasia Group) attended the meeting. On the 2 days preceding the plenary meeting, the MENAFATF held as well the MEWG and TATWG meetings, the FIUs Forum and NRA committee meeting.
Opening the plenary meeting, in his speech, the President first welcomed the attendees and participants, and highlighted the important role of the Group in fighting money laundering and terrorism financing and the ongoing challenges at the current time or those to emerge in the future; Continuing, he called on everyone to combine efforts to protect the region against ML/TF risks that threaten the security and stability of societies and the financial and economic systems.
Over a period of three days, the plenary discussed important topics and concerns in the area of AML/CFT and took the measures deemed appropriate.
The plenary meeting discussed the recent initiatives undertaken and activities held by the Financial Action Task Force, the International Monetary Fund, UN office on Drugs and Crimes, the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, the World Bank and the committee established by virtue of UNSCR 1267 on combating terrorism financing, and focused on the most important issues, challenges and the outcomes of the related projects and studies.
Within the same scope, the plenary meeting condemned the recent terrorist attacks in the Middle East and North Africa as well as abroad. The meeting underscored the increasing importance of multiplying efforts to suppress terrorism and its financing.
The plenary meeting discussed De-risking, its drivers and the impact of avoiding, rather than managing risk in line with the risk-based approach by some financial institutions, particularly Banks, i.e. some avoid dealing with high risk individuals or entities when establishing business relations with them, or terminate existing business relations. The meeting tackled the related international efforts in correcting the prevailing understating about this issue, among others, the most recent FATF statement which had been issued in October 2015:
Follow up on the Voluntary Tax Compliance Programs conducted by the members
The plenary discussed Algeria Report and the program was found to be consistent with FATF 4 principles on VTC. Algeria should submit follow up reports in this respect throughout the duration of the program.
Follow up reports to the mutual evaluations on assessing Members’ compliance with AML/CFT international standards within the first round:
Within the framework of the follow up for mutual evaluations, the plenary meeting conducted a review on the progress made by some members in complying with AML/CFT international standards and praised the achievements made by those countries in improving their AML/CFT regimes in light of the recommended action plan established in the mutual evaluation reports. The plenary meeting discussed 6 follow-up reports for the following countries: Syria, Lebanon, Mauritania, Iraq, Oman, and Algeria.
Further, the plenary meeting heard the first update report of Morocco covering the recent developments and measures taken to improve the AML/CFT regime.
Preparing for the second round of mutual evaluations on assessing Members’ compliance with the international standards (revised) on combating money laundering, terrorism financing proliferation
To this end and prior to initiating the second round of mutual evaluations in accordance with FATF new assessment methodology, the Plenary meeting adopted the timeline of the 2nd round of mutual evaluations. In this respect, the plenary adopted a Guidance list on the Credible and Reliable Sources of Information for the Desk -Based Review of technical compliance.
Cooperation with the Arab Monetary Fund and Asia Pacific Group
The plenary meeting reviewed the activities of some regional and international organizations operating in the AML/CFT area and discussed mutual cooperation. The meeting received an update on the outcomes of FATF Plenary meetings held in June and October 2015 and on the coordination and cooperation with the AMF with respect to holding a workshop on preparing members for the 2nd round of mutual evaluations. Also, the plenary meeting discussed the cooperation with APG on holding a joint workshop on typologies and capacity building in December 2016 and a joint typologies study throughout 2016.
MENAFATF meetings held on the margin of the Plenary meeting:
The Plenary adopted the Mutual Evaluation Working Group (MEWG) and the Technical Assistance and Typologies Working Group (TATWG) Co-Chairs reports; Both reports include the recommendations as developed and decided in the WG meetings held on Monday 23 November 2015 on the margin of the plenary meeting; and the Co-Chairs report of the NRA committee on the meeting held on Sunday 22 November 2015.
The Plenary adopted as well the report of the FIUs Chair on the issues discussed at the 12th meeting held on Sunday 22 November 2015; the report covered the most important topics discussed during the sessions held on encouraging and following-up the applications of FIUs to join the Egmont Group, and exchanging expertise through delivering presentations on " the FIU and the feedback".
Typologies report on ML through the Physical Transportation of Cash
The plenary meeting adopted the FATF/MENAFATF joint typologies report on ML through the Physical Transportation of Cash. The main aim of the project was to assist the concerned parties in fighting money laundering, understand the extent, scope and inherent risks and identify the trends and techniques used; The report revealed the drivers behind this activity and showcased the techniques used to detect and disrupt such crime and the related challenges; with some suggestions and recommendations in this regard. The report will be soon available on the website.
Administrative and organizational issues
The plenary meeting discussed and adopted the 4th strategic plan (2016- 2018); the work plan for year 2016 and some working papers on the funding and other administrative and organizational aspects.
The plenary meeting concluded with the observers' comments who commended the Group efforts in protecting the area from ML/TF risks and expressed their readiness to cooperate in this regard.
The 23rd plenary meeting will be held in Doha, State of Qatar in April 2016.