SBP official creates stir with FATF remarks

Updated 21 Feb 2020

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“Pakistan will be out of grey list by September 2019,” the official was quoted as saying. — AFP/File
“Pakistan will be out of grey list by September 2019,” the official was quoted as saying. — AFP/File

KARACHI: A high-ranking official of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) created a stir on social media with remarks given to a regional newspaper, which quoted him saying “Pakistan will be out of grey list by September 2019”. The remarks were given to the UAE-based daily, Khaleej Times, which headlined them as “Pakistan to be out of FATF’s grey list by September: Central Bank”.

The official in question is Irfan Ali, Executive Director for SBP’s Banking Policy and Regulation Group, the department that deals with all anti-money laundering efforts of the central bank. Ali was in Dubai to attend the Pakistan Remittance Summit, along with other delegates from the National Bank, the Pakistani Ambassador to the UAE and other senior bankers and people from exchange companies.

“The FATF challenge has to be addressed,” the paper quoted Ali as saying. “Pakistan has mandated upon itself to enforce the FATF plan in letter and spirit. Whatever the requirements about the FATF plan are, they will be imposed and Pakistan will be out of grey list by September 2019. FATF is a risk but we are addressing it in the right letter and spirit.”

The categorical nature of the assertion took many in the banking world by surprise given Ali’s position. As the remarks spread on various social media platforms, confusion arose whether they represent the official view of the central bank or the personal opinion of the director. Speculation also built that the remarks reflect some inside knowledge that the official must be in possession of.

In a statement shared with Dawn on Friday afternoon, via the same social media channels through which Ali’s remarks were spreading, the SBP spokesman gave the official position. “The SBP is committed in addressing the FATF challenge relevant to its mandate and expects that its efforts will contribute towards bringing Pakistan out of the FATF grey list by September.”

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2019