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Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

16 October, 2023

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With technological advancement, scammers are revising their tactics to conduct illicit activities. The rising number of money laundering cases is wreaking havoc on financial institutions and is urging the regulating bodies to develop and enforce stringent regulations. This is where the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) comes to the rescue. The main goal of FATF is to set criteria and promote implementation of regulatory measures to maintain the integrity of global financial system. 

What is the FATF?

The Financial Action Task Force was founded in 1989 by the G7 countries. It is an inter-governmental entity that plays a crucial role in the fight against terrorism financing and money laundering. Based in Paris, the financial watchdog publishes guidelines and policies to combat financial crime. The FATF standards help businesses regulate their operations and avoid heavy fines.  

What Does FATF Do? 

Since its establishment, the Financial Action Task Force has expanded its power to address emerging and novel risks in the global financial system. The entity added terrorism financing to its agenda in 2001 after recognizing that terrorist organizations need funding to conduct their illicit activities. The FATF started focusing on preventing the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in 2012 after realizing that the financing of these weapons can lead to destruction.

One of the primary roles of the FATF is to check whether countries implement necessary measures to deter financial crimes. The financial watchdog performs a mutual analysis of different countries’ Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes to assess that they meet international standards. The entity also guides how to strengthen their regimes and work with those countries to address any loopholes determined in mutual analysis. 

There are 39 member countries of FATF, including Germany, the US, the UK, Japan, Canada, and France. In addition to member countries, the financial watchdog works with many global organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the United Nations. The FATF’s guidelines are recognized and used by countries and financial firms across the globe to develop and ensure AML and CFT Compliance.

FATF Gray list and Black list

The Financial Action Task Force maintains two different lists – the gray list and the black list.

The FATF gray list is called the “Jurisdictions under Increased Monitoring” list. The list identifies countries with shortcomings in their AML and CFT systems but shows dedication to working with the Financial Action Task Force to overcome the deficiencies. Appearing on the gray list may cause countries significant economic consequences. It can result in greater scrutiny from regulating bodies, financial firms, and global organizations, making it harder for governments to attract investment opportunities and conduct transactions globally.

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The FATF black list is called the “Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories” list. The list includes countries that are non-cooperative in deterring financial crimes. Such countries have inadequate FATF AML and CFT systems or are unwilling to work with the financial watchdog to address any loopholes in their systems. The first black list had 15 countries; however, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, and Iran were added to the list as of June 2023.

Countries that appear on the FATF black list may face economic sanctions, including restrictions on conducting international transactions and no proper access to foreign investment and aid.

FATF Recommendations for Organizations to Follow

The “FATF’s 40 Recommendations” means a set of guidelines that countries must follow to prevent crime, such as terrorism financing, money laundering, and the trafficking of WMDs. The main goal of the recommendations is to direct different countries to:

  • Coordinating with national institutions to detect and prevent financial crime
  • Empowering authorities to monitor and take action against terrorism financing, money laundering, and other fraud
  • Implementing proactive measures to fight financial crime at an institutional level
  • Enhancing transparency in the structure of beneficial ownership 
  • Cooperating well with international bodies to deter financial crime worldwide

Financial firms must be determined to cooperate with their local governments to comply with the criteria set by the Financial Action Task Force. Failure to establish and implement effective AML standards can result in putting a country on the FATF’s gray list or black list. Thus, the financial firm comes under increased international scrutiny and loses clients as the FATF issues a warning against doing business in the firm’s home country. This makes it challenging for the institution to do business in the country.

FATF’s Recommendations are crucial to fulfill even if your company doesn’t operate in the regulated sector. Following the FATF’s Recommendations closely, business owners protect their firms from the risk of reputational damage and the integrity of the global financial system.

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