FATF Grants Key Extension for Iran Financial Reforms
The Financial Action Task Force has granted Iran until February to complete necessary reforms in the area of anti-money laundering and combating financing of terrorism. In a statement issued following the conclusion of the group’s plenary meeting in Paris, the FATF announced that it had “decided at its meeting this week to continue the suspension of counter-measures.”
The move will be seen as a victory by reform-minded bankers and politicians in Iran, who have battled fierce domestic opposition and foreign skepticism to push through critical legislation required by the FATF action plan.
The United States, which recently took over the presidency of the FATF, had been pushing aggressively for Iran to be returned to the so-called “blacklist.” Senior Republican lawmakers had recently written to President Trump to ask him to ensure Iran would not be able to earn a clean bill of health from the FATF.
But European resistance, motivated in part by a desire to avoid politicizing the evaluations of the global body, helped ensure a fairer assessment of Iran’s technical progress on its action plan.
Despite the extension, Iran will continue to face pressure to complete its reforms. In its statement, the FATF expressed, “its disappointment that the majority of the Action Plan remains outstanding and expects Iran to proceed swiftly in the reform path.”
The group’s statement identifies nine items that remain to be addressed. At a minimum, by February of next year, “the FATF expects Iran to have brought into force the necessary legislation in line with FATF standards” in order for counter-measures to remain suspended.
The full statement follows below:
In June 2016, the FATF welcomed Iran’s high-level political commitment to address its strategic AML/CFT deficiencies, and its decision to seek technical assistance in the implementation of the Action Plan. Given that Iran provided that political commitment and the relevant steps it has taken, the FATF decided in June 2018 to continue the suspension of counter-measures.
In December 2017, Iran established a cash declaration regime. Since June 2018, Iran has enacted amendments to its Counter-Terrorist Financing Act and Parliament has passed amendments to its AML law and bills to ratify the Palermo and TF Conventions. The FATF notes the progress of the legislative efforts. As with any country, the FATF can only consider fully enacted legislation. Once the remaining legislation is fully in force, the FATF will review this alongside existing enacted legislation to determine whether the measures contained therein address Iran’s Action Plan, in line with the FATF standards.
Iran’s action plan expired in January 2018. In October 2018, the FATF noted that the following items are still not completed and Iran should fully address its remaining items, including: (1) adequately criminalising terrorist financing, including by removing the exemption for designated groups “attempting to end foreign occupation, colonialism and racism”; (2) identifying and freezing terrorist assets in line with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions; (3) ensuring an adequate and enforceable customer due diligence regime; (4) ensuring the full independence of the Financial Intelligence Unit and requiring the submission of STRs for attempted transactions; (5) demonstrating how authorities are identifying and sanctioning unlicensed money/value transfer service providers; (6) ratifying and implementing the Palermo and TF Conventions and clarifying the capability to provide mutual legal assistance; (7) ensuring that financial institutions verify that wire transfers contain complete originator and beneficiary information; (8) establishing a broader range of penalties for violations of the ML offense; and (9) ensuring adequate legislation and procedures to provide for confiscation of property of corresponding value.
The FATF decided at its meeting this week to continue the suspension of counter-measures. However, the FATF expresses its disappointment that the majority of the Action Plan remains outstanding and expects Iran to proceed swiftly in the reform path to ensure that it addresses all of the remaining items by completing and implementing the necessary AML/CFT reforms. By February 2019, the FATF expects Iran to have brought into force the necessary legislation in line with FATF standards, or the FATF will take further steps to protect against the risks emanating from deficiencies in Iran’s AML/CFT regime. The FATF also expects Iran to continue to progress with enabling regulations and other amendments.
Iran will remain on the FATF Public Statement until the full Action Plan has been completed. Until Iran implements the measures required to address the deficiencies identified in the Action Plan, the FATF will remain concerned with the terrorist financing risk emanating from Iran and the threat this poses to the international financial system. The FATF, therefore, calls on its members and urges all jurisdictions to continue to advise their financial institutions to apply enhanced due diligence, including obtaining information on the reasons for intended transactions, to business relationships and transactions with natural and legal persons from Iran, consistent with FATF Recommendation 19.
Photo Credit: IRNA