Financial Inclusion advocate Queen Maxima pushed the FATF to consider financial inclusion (Credit: Haags Uitburo)
Monarchs seem mostly untroubled by financial concerns, but Queen Maxima of the Netherlands has made the workings and regulations of those excluded from the formal banking sector a personal issue. Queen Maxima recently attended a plenary meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) - the first reigning Queen to be present at such a gathering, in order to raise concerns and bring change on a subject that has become a passion for her – and the World Bank Group: financial inclusion. Queen Maxima is the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development. In this role, she had already called on the FATF to pay more attention to financial inclusion, and how it relates to financial integrity. In June 2010, at the initiative of the then Dutch Presidency of the FATF, the then Princess Maxima pressed a reluctant FATF plenary in Amsterdam to recognize how ill-designed financial integrity requirements affect financial inclusion by keeping people outside the formal banking sector, and how this can raise the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing.
Last week, British NGO Global Witness published Grave Secrecy, a report on how U.K. registered companies were allegedly used to launder the profits of corruption. Hundreds of millions of dollars passed through the corporate accounts of dozens of shell companies that held bank accounts at Asia Universal Bank (AUB), the largest bank in Kyrgyzstan. Although the report is based on one concrete case of alleged corruption and money laundering in that country, its relevance goes beyond that single example.
It is just one illustration of how money launderers and those involved in large-scale corruption use companies to hold criminal assets whilst ensuring that information on the control of those companies is virtually inaccessible. The essence of those schemes is to parcel out different bits of information on the company to different jurisdictions from which such information can only be obtained with difficulty (so-called secrecy jurisdictions). Indeed, how does one find relevant information on a U.K. company owned by a company registered in the British Virgin Islands with a company secretary in the Marshall Islands and a director in Panama? Criminal creativity knows no bounds.
Last month, the Financial Action Task Force on money laundering (FATF), revised its 40+9 Recommendations on the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) with a new set of 40 Recommendations.
These revised recommendations introduce some significant changes, some of them critical for World Bank client countries. One of the main challenges going forward will be for those stakeholders tasked to implement them, whether policy makers and legislative drafters, government agencies (supervisory authorities, financial intelligence units, law enforcement), banks and other financial institutions, and what are referred to as designated non-financial business service providers (DNFBPs) (e.g, casinos, real estate agencies, dealers in precious metals/stones, lawyers and accountants, and trust and company service providers).