European Union (EU) member states have unanimously rejected a proposal by the EU Executive Commission (EC) to blacklist 23 countries, including Ghana and territories, it believes pose a high risk of money laundering or terrorist financing.
According to the EC, the countries were placed on the blacklist for having strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing frameworks.
In a rebuke of the EU Commission, the member states said in a statement yesterday that the proposal “was not established in a transparent and resilient process.”
The list included nations such as Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Nigeria, and four U.S. overseas territories, which drew the ire of the U.S. government.
The list is used to increase checks and investigations on financial transactions from those countries and territories to find suspicious money flows.
The EU Commission will now have to set up a new list and take the concerns of the member states into consideration.
Some newcomers to the list are Nigeria, Libya, Botswana, Samoa, the Bahamas and the four United States territories of American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam.
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The other listed states are Afghanistan, North Korea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen.
The rejection by EU vindicates the Finance Ministry, which described as regrettable, the decision of the EC to add Ghana to its list of countries defaulting in the anti-money laundering and the financing of terrorism framework.
According to the ministry, Ghana’s commitment to enforcing the anti-money laundering and the countering of financing terrorism framework has been acknowledged by the global standard regulatory body, the Financial Action Task Force [FATF].
“Ghana regrets the February 13, 2019 decision by the European Commission [EC] to add Ghana to its list of countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) framework. Ghana’s commitment to strengthening its evolving AML/CFT framework has been acknowledged by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global standard setting body in global AML/CFT.
“The European Commission’s blacklist of Ghana, therefore, does not reflect the current of Ghana’s AML/CFT regime, This is unfortunate, and Ghanaian authorities are willing and ready to engage with the commission about the true status of the country’s AML/CFT regime and efforts at strengthening it and removing Ghana from their list of countries with strategic deficiencies in their AML/CFT framework.”
A statement issued by the public affairs unit of the Finance Ministry explained that the process by which the European Commission decided on Ghana as a country with strategic deficiencies in AML/CFT is flawed, adding that there were no prior engagements between Ghana and various regulatory agencies and stakeholders.
The Government of Ghana is further calling on the European Commission to reverse its decision against the country.
“We consider the methodology used by the EC flawed, as there were no communications with Ghana concerning shortcomings that needed to be improved. Consequently, Ghana was not given the opportunity to respond or time to implement corrective measures, which is the norm. We, therefore, consider the decision to be premature and call for its reversal.”
European Commission includes Ghana in ‘dirty money’ blacklist
The European Commission last week added Ghana to a list of 23 countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing frameworks.
Ghana and her West African neighbour Nigeria were added to an already existing blacklist of 16 countries announced by the European Commission in a press release on February 13.
The list, however, did not include any specified sanctions, restrictions on trade relations or impediment to development aid.
According to the EC, the aim of the list is to protect the EU financial system by better preventing money laundering and terrorist financing risks.
Vra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality at the European Commission, said: “We have established the strongest anti-money laundering standards in the world, but we have to make sure that dirty money from other countries does not find its way to our financial system. Dirty money is the lifeblood of organised crime and terrorism. I invite the countries listed to remedy their deficiencies swiftly.
The commission stands ready to work closely with them to address these issues in our mutual interest.”
For each country, the commission assessed the level of existing threat, the legal framework and controls put in place to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing risks and their effective implementation. The commission also took into account the work of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the international standard setter in this field.