The President of the Compliance Officers Forum of GIABA Member States
Other members of the Executives of the Forum
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to make this Opening Remark on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the Regional Virtual Meeting of Chief Compliance Officers of Reporting Institutions on Emerging Money Laundering & Terrorist Financing Issues. May I use this opportunity to thank and commend the President and Executive Members of the Compliance Officers Forum of GIABA member States (COFGMS) for the progress made since they were elected in 2018. We have noted with satisfaction your efforts to put in place appropriate structures for the full operationalization of the Forum, including the recent engagement of the Executive Secretary to manage and coordinate activities of the Forum.
As I noted in June 2019, this initiative (Forum) is an important one in our region and is a best practice amongst many FATF Style Regional Bodies across the globe. The Secretariat will continue to provide necessary technical and administrative support will facilitate effective implementation of AML/CFT preventive measures in the region. To our resource persons, I would like to express our appreciation to facilitate at this programme. This is a clear demonstration of your support to GIABA and the fight against ML/TF in our region
2. This workshop was earlier planned for June 2020 but postponed due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. Consequently, to ensure business continuity, some of the programmes planned by GIABA, including this Workshop have been redesigned to be delivered through a virtual platform without compromising the objectives set out to achieve. As the situation evolves, we expect to see a paradigm shift in focus and reprioritization of some activities.
3. Ladies and Gentlemen, the COVID-19 pandemic has occasioned changes in business operations including the compliance culture with attendant implications on the ability of both public and private sector to implement their AML/CFT obligations. This new NORMAL informed the theme for this year’s workshop tagged Compliance in the Era of Covid-19.
4. Key findings from our 2nd round of mutual evaluation reports of assessed member States indicate that reporting institutions are still grappling with several compliance challenges, including understanding and mitigating ML/TF risk, effective implementation of customer due diligence and beneficial ownership requirements, and reporting of suspicious transactions which impacted adversely on the assessed countries’ level of performance under Immediate Outcomes (IOs) 4 (Preventive measures), 5 (legal persons and arrangement – particularly beneficial ownership), and 6 (financial intelligence), thus contributing to their placement under the Enhanced Follow Up process. COVID-19 pandemic has added to these challenges by causing severe disruptions to critical sectors of our economies, including the financial system. Criminals are therefore exploiting the emerging vulnerabilities to continue their illicit activities. In particular, criminals and terrorists are exploiting COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic downturn to move into new cash-intensive and high-liquidity lines of business in developing countries to launder proceeds of crimes as well as to fund their operations. Consequently, the emerging ML/TF risks will shape the global compliance environment, and no doubt, add to the current AML/CFT implementation challenges in the region. Thus, reporting entities must adapt rapidly and keep abreast with these developments, and where necessary, make a shift in focus and reprioritization of some activities to mitigate these emerging ML/TF risks.
5. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is important to mention that GIABA is not immune to the impact of Covid-19. As an institution, GIABA has adopted strategies to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on its programmes, to ensure that member States effectively implement their AML/CFT obligations.
These include the proactive engagement with member States on the application of their AML/CFT measures and working constructively with them to minimize the potential impact of Covid-19, and the use of the virtual space in programme delivery, including the organization of this workshop.
6. The private sector remains our strategic and formidable ally in the implementation of effective measures against money laundering and terrorist financing. GIABA will continue to engage with the sector through the Forum’s platform and will also continue to provide the required technical support to reporting institutions, especially the non-bank financial institutions, which constitute a weak link in member States’ AML/CFT regime, to accelerate their compliance with international standards on AML/CFT.
7. Ladies and Gentlemen, the primary objective of the programme is to provide a platform for participants to share experiences and foster cooperation and collaboration toward effective implementation of AML/CFT preventive measures in the Era of Covid-19. To achieve the objectives of the programme, a team of seasoned professionals has been carefully chosen to lead the discussions in these subjects.
8. To you participants, I wish to call on you to take full ownership and actively participate in the programme. It is our expectation that the interactions and exchange of experiences during this workshop will further deepen your knowledge, and enable you to effectively respond to current and emerging threats of money laundering and terrorist financing in our region.
I wish you fruitful deliberations. On this note, it is my honour to declare open GIABA REGIONAL VIRTUAL MEETING OF CHIEF COMPLIANCE OFFICERS OF REPORTING INSTITUTIONS ON EMERGING MONEY LAUNDERING & TERRORIST FINANCING ISSUES
September 2, 2019