US urges Pak to expand FATF safeguards to informal sectors

US urges Pak to expand FATF safeguards to informal sectors

ISLAMABAD: The US has urged Pakistan to expand Financial Action Task Force (FATF) safeguards to informal sectors of economy amid its concerns over slow progress on implementation of the 27-point action plan, media reported on Friday.

A US delegation which has been assessing the on-ground implementation of the 27-point action plan of the FATF took up the matter on Wednesday with federal minister Hammad Azhar, who is also the coordinator on FATF affairs from the civilian side, the Express Tribune reported.

The delegation is visiting the country to have an independent assessment of steps, actions and measures identified during the Florida meetings of the Paris-based anti-money laundering watchdog in June this year and the progress made by Pakistan since then.

In June, the FATF said that Pakistan failed to complete its action plan on terror financing. It warned Islamabad to meet its commitment by October or face action, which could possibly lead to the country getting blacklisted.

Sources told the newspaper that during meeting with the government officials, the US delegation acknowledged the work done by Pakistan during the past 15 months but expressed concerns over slow progress that would result in the missing of many of the agreed action points.

The delegation urged Pakistani authorities to put more concerted efforts to address the deficiencies in Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Combating Financing of Terrorism (CFT) regimes, which led to grey listing of Pakistan with effect from June last year.

The US delegation got first-hand information about the country’s preparedness to deliver on the action plan during its interaction with private and public sectors, which began on Monday in Karachi.

Federal Minister Azhar has recently been appointed as coordinator of a Cabinet body that is overseeing implementation on the FATF Action Plan.

This is in addition to the National Executive Committee on anti-money laundering that is headed by Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.

Official sources said that the US delegation discussed the loopholes in the financial system and its lack of coverage of various sectors of the economy.

They said that the US authorities were of the view that about one-fourth transactions were still taking place outside the formal banking sector.

They advised the Pakistan authorities to take measures that could fully capture the business transactions in the real estate and the agriculture sectors, the sources said.

They urged the US authorities to review the country’s progress instead of judging it on the 27 goals, the sources said.

The US delegation came to Pakistan nearly two weeks before the government is set to submit a report on August 13 on the steps and actions taken by the country on the 27-point Action plan before the Joint Group of the Asia Pacific Group (AGP) for a joint review.

The joint group would discuss the findings of the report in a September 9-13 meeting in Bangkok.

Pakistan is a member of the APG and its case is being presented before the FATF by the APG.

India’s Financial Intelligence Unit’s (FIU) director general and the US Assistant Treasury Secretary Marshall Billingslea co-chair the Joint Group.

We have made a lot of progress since June last year but yes we have not still reached to an ideal situation, a senior government official said on condition of anonymity.

The official said that Pakistan still needed more time to fully implement the 27-point Action Plan and that the government would work with international partners to seek more time from the FATF. PTI

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