By Tunde Niyi-Akinmade
Some members of the Global Financial Action Task Force (FATF) have disagreed with the European Union’s decision to blacklist Nigeria and 22 other countries in an expanded list of countries released last week. The blacklist include countries who have failed to take steps to strengthen their anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regimes, and would mean stricter caution in financial transactions involving the named countries.
It would also mean all EU banks and governments would apply extra caution or block dealings involving the affected territories.
However, some FATF member states, including United States, who discussed the EU’s submission at the FATF plenary on Wednesday in Paris, disagreed with the listing.
Sources at the ongoing meeting said that non-EU states took turns to lampoon the decision, with the U.S. describing it as “out of order and confusing.”
Billingslea Marshall, FATF’s president, announced the U.S. government’s directive to all U.S. banks to ignore the EU listing of the 23 countries. Other countries, including Japan, Argentina and others from Africa and the Middle-East are in agreement with the U.S.’s position.
Most members at the meeting believe the EU’s position is taken unilaterally and was taken outside the known global mechanism for tackling illegal monies such as the FATF, Egmont Group and the UNODC.
Many believe the EU’s move will cause confusion to the organised global efforts against money laundering and predicate crimes. A New Zealand’s representative at the meeting described it as “neither here nor there.”
The U.S. acknowledged that Nigeria was assessed and readmitted into the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. Marshall was in particular in recognising the fact that Nigeria was the first West African Country to be at FATF representing West African sub region and processing FATF Membership with full commitment.
He stressed that the FATF is waiting for the Nigerian government to pass two major bills; the Mutual Legal Assistance Bill (MLA) and the Proceeds of Crime Bill (POCA), to enable it proceed with the membership accreditation.
He told the plenary that once Nigeria passes the bills, they will join the FATF as Associate Member, where 15 European Countries are permanent members.
Though the EU Commission defended itself that the listing is subject to final vote of its member states at a future date, the FATF Plenary still condemned the decision.
Věra Jourová, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said the list is an update of third world countries the EU identified earlier as jurisdictions where money laundering and terrorism financing are allowed to flourish.
The commission said the new list followed a review of the process of these third world countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing frameworks.