The executive secretary of the Financial Action Task Force has said there is a need to ensure Anti Money Laundering (AML) professionals “stop just ticking boxes”

David Lewis, speaking at the Chatham House Illicit Financial Flows Conference, said AML needs to made “real for people” as otherwise they don’t care and can’t be exected to “do anything more than tick boxes”.

He said: ”We are all human and we need to care about what we do, in order to do it well.

”If the FATF, as the global body responsible for AML, does not make clear the link between preventive measures like customer due diligence, and the crimes those measures are intended to prevent and detect, like people trafficking and the wildlife trade, then we can’t expect success.” 

He suggested that there is too much emphasis on “protecting the integrity of the financial system” as opposed to the impact of crime.

He said: “I don’t know about you, but I don’t go to work every day - or at least these days to the kitchen table - in order to protect the integrity of the financial system. I go to work to help follow the money that fuels crime and terrorism and to reduce the harm that causes to people and our planet.”

Lewis also said an intelligence-led approach is now needed in addition to risk-based supervision including more effective information-sharing.

He said: “Public private partnerships have such great potential. I say potential, because even good examples such as the Joint Money Laundering Intelligence Task Force in the UK, have great scope for growth and improvement.

“The authorities need to give banks more specific information and the intelligence required to find real suspicious activity and to focus their huge investment and resources on activity that makes a difference. We need to break down the barriers to more effective information sharing, including the myths and realities that remain around tipping off and data protection.”

He said that there is now a strong appetite and consensus to achieve this, along with tools and technology.

Lewis was speaking a week after the FATF virtual plenary, at which FATF agreed to publish new guidance on risk-based supervision. The guidance, which includes case studies and examples of strategies for supervising financial and non-financial businesses and professions, is due to be published later this week.

FATF has also this week published a consultation on proposed guidance to help government agencies and private bodies implement new requirements to identify, assess, understand and mitigate weapons proliferation financing.

FATF also agreed to publish a consultation document on updated guidance on mitigating risks from Virtual Assets Services Providers in March. This will include advice on how to apply FATF standards to stable coins. This consultation will also look at how the ‘travel rule’ can be implemented by the public and private sector.

The travel rule adopted by FATF in 2019, requires both the originators and beneficiaries of all transfers of digital funds to exchange identifying information. They must also be able to guarantee the accuracy of the information.

Learn more about information-sharing at the FinCrime World Forum on 23 and 24 March.

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