Pakistan on Monday submitted detailed answers to 125 questions posed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on moves taken by it to strengthen anti-money laundering and combat financing of terrorism, as Islamabad seeks to move out of the FATF Greylist.
The report was submitted by Pakistan’s Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar who is heading the 15-member delegation to Bangkok for the FATF negotiations, which will continue till September 13.
The Asia Pacific Joint Group of the FATF began its four-day meeting on Monday in Bangkok to review the compliance report of Pakistan, besides other countries.
The Financial Action Task Force Asia Pacific Group has sought answers for 125 questions from Pakistan to take the country out of the Greylist.
Pakistan’s report would be discussed by the Asia Pacific Joint Group on Tuesday.
Other members of the Pakistani team include officials of the State Bank of Pakistan, Ministries of Finance and Interior, Federal Investigation Agency, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Federal Board of Revenue, National Counter Terrorism Authority and the Financial Monitoring Unit.
The outcome of the negotiations with the global watchdog for terror financing and money laundering will decide whether Pakistan continues to feature in the Greylist or is put on the Blacklist, during the FATF meeting in Paris on October 16-18.
During the Bangkok negotiations, the FATF will be apprised of measures taken by Pakistan to prevent suspicious transactions and Pakistani officials will be cross-questioned about moves to restrict illegal activities and freeze the assets of proscribed organisations and groups.
Pakistan has been under the FATF radar for its complicity with terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) among others. In addition, terrorists like Hafiz Saeed are regularly seen ranting anti-India rhetoric and collecting “donations”.
On August 22, the Asia-Pacific Group (APG), a regional affiliate of the Financial Action Task Force, had placed Pakistan in the Enhanced Expedited Follow Up List (Blacklist) for its failure to meet standards.
In its 22nd Annual Meeting held in Canberra, the APG found that Pakistan was non-compliant on 32 of the 40 compliance parameters of terror financing and money laundering. On 11 effectiveness parameters, Pakistan was adjudged as low on 10.
A Pakistani delegation, headed by State Bank of Pakistan Governor Dr Reza Baqir had then briefed the APG on the steps taken for improving Pakistan’s Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) framework, as well as the actions for ensuring effective implementation of the FATF action plan.
In June, the FATF had given Pakistan four months (till October) to improve its counter-terror financing operations in accordance with the agreed plan.
In a statement on its website, the FATF had expressed concern that “not only did Pakistan fail to complete its action plan items by January deadline; it also failed to complete its action plan items due in May 2019”.
“The FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its action plan by October 2019 when the last set of action plan items are set to expire,” the FATF statement said. “Otherwise, the FATF will decide the next step at that time for insufficient progress.”
Pakistan was told to block financial loopholes, terror financing and money laundering by implementing the 27-point action plan.
Based out of Paris, the FATF is an inter-governmental body that combats money laundering, terrorist financing and threats to the international financial system. It put Pakistan on its grey list in June 2017 because of deficiencies in the country’s anti-money laundering and countering of terror financing regulations.
Being on the Greylist doesn’t come with any sanctions. However, if Pakistan remains on this list, it faces the risk of being put on the Blacklist.
Being on the Blacklist would mean its banking system will be regarded as one with poor controls over Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism standards. Expatriates will find it difficult to send remittances and traders’ cost of business will increase because local banks will face higher scrutiny in international payments and foreign banks might not even do business with Pakistani banks.
The Pakistan government, too, will struggle to raise funds from international markets if the country is placed on the blacklist.