Being on FATF's blacklist no longer a possibility, Hammad Azhar assures nation

Published February 26, 2021
Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar addresses a press conference in Islamabad on Friday. — DawnNewsTV
Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar addresses a press conference in Islamabad on Friday. — DawnNewsTV

A day after the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) announced that it will keep Pakistan on its grey list for another four months, Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar said being blacklisted is no longer a possibility.

Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad, he said that Pakistan achieved its targets even though the timelines and the FATF's action plan were a challenge.

"At the previous plenary, FATF countries and the FATF secretariat said that blacklisting was not an option because the country has achieved significant progress," said Azhar, who is the chairman of the FATF Coordination Committee.

Our second target was to complete the 27-point action plan and to send the message to the world that Pakistan's financial systems and terrorism financing networks have gone beyond international standards, he said. "As you have seen, today the FATF itself is saying that we are 90 per cent close to achieving this goal."

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Pakistan had the option to not do the reports, an option that was exercised by some countries, according to Azhar. "But we took advantage of that time and continued with the reporting. The result of that is in front of you."

He maintained that the remaining three points on the FATF's action plan will be completed soon. "A lot of work has been done on the three points in which we are partially complaint. In my eyes, we are close to being largely compliant in these areas."

He added that the credit for the entire effort was due to a "whole of government approach" under which different departments worked. "Pakistan achieved exemplary progress despite a very tough action plan, tight timelines, and the Covid-19 pandemic."

The minister added that Pakistan is perhaps the only country in the world that is under the FATF's dual scrutiny. "It was decided that Pakistan will remain under dual scrutiny because the MER [Mutual Evaluation Report] process is also ongoing simultaneously.

"So, in parallel our government and departments have also been working day and night on the completion of this process."

He ended his media briefing by once again assuring the nation that Pakistan has avoided the FATF's blacklist and has set the target of completing the 27-point action plan by June.

Pakistan to stay on grey list till June

Pakistan will continue to stay on the FATF's grey list for another four months, until June for three out of 27 unmet action plan targets on anti-money laundering and combating financing terror (AML/CFT).

“Pakistan remains in the increased monitoring list (the grey list),” announced FATF President Dr Marcus Pleyer on Thursday while appreciating that the country had made significant progress on all aspects of AML/CFT action plan “but severe deficiencies still remain relating” to terror financing.

“To date, Pakistan has made progress across all action plan items and has now largely addressed 24 of the 27 action items. As all action plan deadlines have expired, the FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan before June 2021,” said the president of Paris-based global watchdog on money laundering and terrorist financing.

The FATF president said he “strongly urged Pakistan” to complete the action plan at the earliest. Responding to a question, he said only “a fully completed action plan including three outstanding areas” will be verified and then FATF members will test “its sustainability” and suggest future steps.

The FATF asked Pakistan to continue to work on implementing the three remaining items in its action plan to address its strategically important deficiencies. These include (1) demonstrating that TF investigations and prosecutions target persons and entities acting on behalf or at the directive of the designated persons or entities; (2) demonstrating that TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions; and (3) demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all 1,267 and 1,373 designated terrorists, and those acting for them or on their behalf.

Replying to a question, the FATF chief made it clear that Pakistan could not be considered for blacklisting even after next deadline of June because the country had agreed to complete the action plan, remained committed to it and “they have shown progress on all counts” and hence that was not the stage to put a country on blacklist. Yet, “we urge the government of Pakistan to make fast progress” to move forward.

The FATF noted that since June 2018, when Pakistan made a high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and the Asia Pacific Group to strengthen its AML/CFT regime and to address its strategic counterterrorist financing-related deficiencies, the country’s continued political commitment had led to significant progress across a comprehensive CFT action plan. This includes demonstration that law enforcement agencies are identifying and investigating the widest range of TF activity, demonstrating enforcement against TFS violations, and working to prevent the raising and moving of funds, including by controlling facilities and services owned or controlled by designated persons and entities.

The FATF also added four more jurisdictions to the increased monitoring list that included Burkina Faso, the Cayman Islands, Morocco and Senegal.

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