Tracking the proceeds of corruption and trafficking in people should be the focus of the world’s anti-money laundering task force, rather than “terrorist” finance, the new head of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said.
Pretoria: Tracking the proceeds of corruption and trafficking in people should be the focus of the world’s anti-money laundering task force, rather than “terrorist” finance, the body’s new head said on Wednesday.
Founded in 1989, the 29-country financial action task force (FATF) initially focused on tracking drug money, but in recent years has concentrated mainly on funding for militant groups.
The FATF’s new president, South Africa’s former Education Minister Kader Asmal, said that should change.
“The emphasis of FATC has been almost entirely on terrorism. I would like the empahsis to look at developing countries’ needs – for example corruption,” he told reporters.
Tracking the proceeds of corruption was key to preventing it, and money laundering itself damaged a country even if the original crime were committed beyond its borders, he said.
“It subverts governance, it destroys respect for governance, it removes the element of legitimacy from institutions,” he said. Tracking money laundering could also help detect and stop trafficking in people, he added.
“It costs around $10,000 to smuggle someone from China to Britain or Belgium. Where does the money go?” he said.
South Africa is the only African country on the task force and will hold the presidency for a year. Asmal said he was keen to see its membership broaden.
“China is not a member, it is only an observer. India is not a member. In my period we will try to assist China to become a full member, and India.”
South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said South Africa could help other African states make progress by lending staff to its neighbors and helping countries like Nigeria get off the list of states the FATC considers non-compliant.
“If the focus is to stay on compliance with systems used by G8 countries it becomes very hard for developing countries to catch up. It is pointless if a country has legislation but no institutions,” he said.
South Africa has identified 24,000 suspicious transactions over the last two years, although only one percent were considered worth passing to law enforcement agencies.
Peter Apps, Reuters, June 29, 2005