MENAFATF plenary adopts Abu Dhabi recommendations for strengthening AML/CFT systems in MENA region

MENAFATF plenary adopts Abu Dhabi recommendations for strengthening AML/CFT systems in MENA region

MENAFATF, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-Style Regional Body, adopted the Abu Dhabi recommendations on regional best practices for fighting money laundering and financing of terrorism.

The Abu Dhabi recommendations consist of 24 best practice commitments made by MENAFATF member states for enhancing regional efforts to counter money laundering and financing terrorism.

The recommendations were agreed at the closing of the MENAFATF Typologies and Capacity Building Workshop held between 6-8 March 2023 under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Chairman of the Higher Committee Overseeing the National Strategy on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism, and hosted by the UAE Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing (EO AML/CTF) in Abu Dhabi.

Hamid Al Zaabi, Director-General of EO AML/CTF, commended the adoption of the Abu Dhabi recommendations by the MENAFATF plenary, adding that this constitutes a significant step forward in the regional adoption of best practices. He explained, “The 2023 MENAFATF Typologies and Capacity Building Workshop, held in the UAE, provides a strong platform for sharing new typologies and updating existing ones while facilitating the exchange of best practices. With over 100 participants from 21 countries that make up MENAFATF, as well as observers and representatives from other FATF-Style Regional Bodies (FSRBs) and international organizations, the workshop drew together some of the best minds in combating financial crime.

“The Abu Dhabi recommendations are a worthy output from these discussions and create a valuable tool for raising standards through effective international cooperation. They reflect the firm commitment of the UAE to adopting best practices in combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism in the MENA region,” he added.

Suliman Al Jabrin, Executive Secretary of MENAFATF, stated that regional alignment on best practices has created of a set of shared standards that strengthens the national AML/CFT systems of member states. He added, “I am delighted that the 24 recommendations made by MENAFATF members in Abu Dhabi cover a comprehensive range of the most pressing issues facing us today. It is right that the list includes Virtual Assets (VA), ML typologies, Public-Private Partnerships, regional assessments, and multiple means of expanding cooperation. The MENA region plays an important role in the global economy, and the Abu Dhabi recommendations send a strong signal to our international partners that there is no place for financial crime in our part of the world.”

The Abu Dhabi recommendations consist of the following best practice commitments made by MENAFATF member states:

  • Establish committees or task forces specialized in partnership between the public and private sectors to strengthen AML/CFT systems.
  • Develop clear legal frameworks for the exchange of information between the public and private sectors.
  • Encourage taking advantage of the methods and patterns associated with combating ML/TF crimes presented by member countries.
  • Urge member countries to participate in the regional assessment of ML/TF risks for the MENA region.
  • Prioritise asset recovery and strengthening cooperation among MENAFATF members in this field in line with international standards.
  • Exert efforts to increase transparency with legal persons, including the issue of Ultimate Beneficial Owners.
  • Enhance the use of electronic payment methods by NPOs during their activities in order to limit their abuse in TF.
  • Urge countries to continue to raise awareness among NPOs and issue guidance to assist them to prevent their misuse of TF.
  • Urge countries to continue tracking the identification of the sub-group that falls under the FATF definition, taking into account new threats, and directing supervisory resources according to the risk-based approach in line with UNSCR 2462.
  • Urge NPOs to raise awareness among partners, intermediaries, or representatives to ensure that they are not abused in TF during the implementation of programs.
  • Ensure that measures to mitigate TF risks do not affect NPOs’ achievement of their objectives.
  • Enhance MENAFATF countries’ understanding of the requirements of Recommendation 15, including the sectoral risk assessment of VAs, given the rapid development in this field.
  • Urge countries to build capacities in the field of VAs with the competent authorities, especially in the field of supervision, control, investigations, and management of seized and confiscated assets and the extent of their use in evading sanctions.
  • Continue to adopt new technologies to mitigate the risks of VAs in partnership with the private sector.
  • Enhance national cooperation in following up on issues related to VAs between the competent authorities and urge the use of best practices such as specialized task forces (working groups).
  • Urge MENAFATF countries to follow up on the publications issued by international organizations such as FATF, as well as the United Nations Monitoring Group, which include the most important techniques, indicators, and methods used for ML/TF through VAs.
  • Urge countries to complete or start evaluating the DNFBPs sectors and underscore the need to allocate supervisory resources towards the highest risks.
  • Strengthen the legislative and regulatory framework in relation to the DNFBPs sectors.
  • Refer to the experience of the United Arab Emirates in regulating the DNFBPs sector as a practical model for compliance with FATF standards.
  • Highlight the importance of member states strengthening procedures for identifying BOs in accordance with FATF’s updated amendments.
  • Benefit from the experiences of member countries and FSRB member countries in the field of human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, and illegal trafficking in wildlife.
  • Raise awareness among member countries about the risks of cybercrime, particularly ransomware and related payment methods, especially concerning VAs.
  • Benefit from the methods, patterns, and indicators of other FSRB member countries in corruption and drug trafficking crimes.
  • Study the impact of environmental crimes and the risks of money laundering associated therewith in the MENA region and consider the establishment of specialized working groups composed of the public and private sectors within the concerned countries to address these risks.

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