Monday, October 26, 2020

Botswana assures EU, UK commitment to fight terror, money laundering

Botswana has assured the European Union (UK) and the United Kingdom (UK) her commitment to the global fight against the concomitant troubles of money laundering and terrorist financing. 

To this end, Botswana is working with technical assistance providers including Her Majesty’s Treasury (UK), the International Monetary Fund (IMF),the US Treasury and the European Union (EU) to improve her Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) and the proliferation of arms of mass destruction (CPF) system holistically. 

This was said by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, briefing Parliament on Friday. 

He said work will begin with all technical assistance providers including the EU to ensure compliance with the relevant regulations.

“The Botswana government takes the blacklisting by the EU seriously as it has a high potential to tarnish the image of the country, negatively affect the fundamentals of its economy and damage its profile internationally,” said Matsheka.

He further confirmed that a number of actions were taken by the government in response to the blacklisting decision. He said apart from issuing of a press statement explaining the EU Commission listing, a verbal note was sent to the EU followed by an official paper stating the position of Botswana government. 

Matsheka stated that the Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation Unity Dow wrote to all her counterparts in the EU appealing to them to reconsider the decision. Matsheka added that he wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia and Minister of Finance, in his capacity of President of the European Council. He said the Ambassadors of the EU Member States were briefed on the position of Botswana and requested to communicate to their respective capitals the information provided to them. 

“The action plan states that Botswana should assess the risks associated with legal persons, arrangements and non-profit organisations and develop and implement a risk-based comprehensive national AML/CFT strategy; as well as develop and implement risk-based AML/CFT supervisory manuals,” he said.

He further stated that in relation to effectiveness compliance, the FATF has extended timelines from December 2020 to A 2021 on three action items, adding that this was prompted by the disruptions in the implementation of remedial measures as a result of COVID19. He said with regards to the other three action items with expired timelines, the February assessment by ICRG indicate a marked improvement as some of the sub-action items have been assessed as largely addressed.

“We are hopeful that feedback on the assessment of the report the country submitted to ICRG on July 31st 2020 will be positive,” he stated.

Dr Matsheka further said that on May 7, 2020, the European Commission published a new list of high-risk third countries, including Botswana, said to have strategic deficiencies in their AML and CFT systems. 

He added that the listing obliges all EU member countries to instruct their financial institutions and other designated non-financial businesses and professions to apply enhanced due diligence when dealing with financial transactions involving Botswana. He also stated that on 19th June 2020, the EU published in the Official Journal of the European Union the decision to blacklist Botswana and the other countries. 

He said the regulation was to enter into force within 20 days after its publication, adding that this means the blacklisting has already been effected. He said this decision was communicated to Botswana on 23rd June, 2020.

“The main role of the Financial Intelligence Agency is to analyze and disseminate financial information to law enforcement agencies and comparable bodies for combatting of money laundering terrorist and proliferation financing,” he said.

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