FATF team due next month for ‘on-site’ visit

Successful visit will pave the way for Pakistan getting out of watchdog’s grey list


Kamran Yousuf August 16, 2022

ISLAMABAD:

A team of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is expected to visit Pakistan in September to conduct “on-site” visit in order to verifying steps taken by the country to curb money laundering and terror financing before it finally exits the watchdog’s grey list.

The FATF in June hinted at Pakistan’s removal from the grey list after it concluded that Islamabad had complied with its 34-point plan of action. The global financial watchdog had also agreed to send its team for the verification of those steps.

A successful on-site visit will pave the way for Pakistan getting out of the grey list.

Pakistan was placed on the grey list by the FATF in June 2018 for deficiencies in its system to curb money laundering and terror financing. It was first given a 27-point action plan and later another 7-point plan to comply with the FATF’s standards.

The major stumbling block was the prosecution of certain UN security Council (UNSC)-designated individuals accused of terror financing. Just days before the June plenary meeting of the FATF in Berlin, Pakistani anti-terrorism court convicted Sajid Mir in terror financing case, something that convinced the FATF members to acknowledge Pakistan’s progress.

Official sources told The Express Tribune that Pakistan was expecting the FATF team in September before the next plenary due in October. Ahead of the all-important visit, Pakistan is finalising its strategy and holding consultations with all the relevant authorities.

Last week, a crucial meeting was convened at the Foreign Office for this purpose, according to the sources. The meeting was chaired by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar.

The National FATF Coordination Committee was given a detailed briefings on the recent legal, policy and administrative actions to improve effectiveness of Pakistan’s Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime.

“The minister of state expressed satisfaction on the trajectory of reforms and appreciated the collective, system-wide efforts in bringing Pakistan’s AML/CFT regime at par with the international standards, which remains a top priority of the government,” read a statement of the Foreign Office.

The meeting was attended by senior officers from the National FATF Secretariat, ministries of finance, foreign affairs, interior, law and justice, State Bank of Pakistan, Financial Monitoring Unit, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Federal Board of Revenue, National Counter-Terrorism Authority, Federal Investigation Agency, Anti-Narcotics Force, and the National Accountability Bureau.

Pakistan is confident that the team will verify the steps during its on-site visit. Officials, however, cautioned that a neighbouring country might still use her influence to drag Pakistan’s case.

The United States is believed to have played a key role in ensuring the on-site visit for Pakistan as it expressed satisfaction with the country’s measures to curb terror financing, particularly the prosecution of certain individuals.

The exit from the FATF grey list will restore Pakistan’s image and give confidence to the foreign investors for doing ventures in the country. The grey listing makes it hard for the countries to do financial transactions and raises the cost of doing business. Pakistan’s likely removal from the grey list will help give impetus to its struggling economy.

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