FATF urges member states to criminalise financing ‘terror travels’

WASHINGTON: The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) urged all member states on Wednesday to criminalise financing of terror-related travels.

The FATF guidelines, issued on Wednesday, include a detail  instruction to “criminalise the financing of travel for the purpose of the perpetration, planning, preparation of or participation in, terrorist acts, or providing or receiving terrorist training”. The instructions also urged member states to identify and take measures in relation to any countries with strategic deficiencies for terrorist financing.

“Global safeguards to combat terrorist financing are only as strong as the jurisdiction with the weakest measures,” the statement added, noting that terrorist financiers can “circumvent weak anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) controls to successfully move assets to finance terrorism through the financial system”.

The FATF guidelines, however, did not name any country.

Instead, the agency urged all jurisdictions to work closely with the FATF regional bodies, and other key partners such as the UN. It reminded member states that a key objective of the FATF is to continually identify jurisdictions with significant weaknesses in their AML/CFT regimes, and to work with them to address those weaknesses.

The Paris-based monitoring agency has placed Pakistan on its watchlist of high-risk jurisdictions, also known as the grey list. So far, there are only two countries — Iran and North Korea — on the FATF list of non-cooperative jurisdictions, also known as the blacklist.

Last month, the global finance watchdog kept Pakistan off its blacklist but warned Islamabad it only had until February to improve or face international action. The agency pointed out that Pakistan had failed to complete its action plan to combat terrorism financing first by a January deadline, then a May deadline and now October.

Combating terrorist financing has been a priority for the FATF since 2001. However, in 2015, the scope and nature of terrorist threats globally intensified considerably, with terrorist attacks in many cities across the world, and the terrorist threat posed by the so-called Islamic State (Daesh) and by Al Qaeda and their affiliated terrorist organisations.

FATF reminded member states that terrorists and terrorist groups continued to raise money with use of various means, and therefore, “countries must make it a priority to understand the risks they face from terrorist financing and develop policy responses to all aspects of it”.

The statement also underlined the changing nature of the threat, noting, “Terrorism threats have continued to evolve, from large terrorist organisations, to returning terrorist fighters and right-wing extremists.”

FATF pointed out that “despite its loss of territory, IS continues to have access to resources enabling it to carry out or inspire terrorist attacks around the world. Al Qaeda and affiliate terrorist organisations continue to pose threats. Funds flow cross-border to providing resources for designated organisations”.

The statement regretted that many countries had not yet implemented the FATF Standards effectively and did not understand the nature of terrorist financing risks they faced, nor had effective means to combat them.

FATF urged member states to improve and update the understanding of terrorist financing risks, in light of the dynamic way in which the risks are changing in different regions around the world.

“The understanding of risk is a key part of jurisdictions’ counter-terrorist financing regime, as understanding the risks allows countries to allocate resources to detect or disrupt terrorist financing,” it added.

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