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FATF: reduction in COVID-19 related terrorist financing risks in the Middle East and North Africa region

In a study on “The Coronavirus Pandemic and Its Impact on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorist Financing” systems: The FATF recognizes the reduction in terrorist financing risks related to COVID-19 in the Middle East and North Africa region

The Financial Action Task Force for the Middle East and North Africa recommended that member states – in a recent report – draw up a unified map of the risks associated with money laundering.

Financing terrorism related to the Coronavirus pandemic, working to find measures to mitigate them and similar crises, reviewing the adequacy of anti-money laundering and terrorist financing controls and their compliance with facing critical and crisis conditions, in line with the participation of the concerned authorities in stimulating economic activity.

The Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force report, issued in late October 2020 entitled “The Corona Pandemic and its Impact on Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Systems in the Middle East and North Africa”, concluded that the Middle East and North Africa region is characterized by a low risk of terrorist financing. Related to the Corona pandemic, it also became clear that the emerging money laundering risks are not far from what is common globally, and we can work to contain it and guard against it in the future.

On the other hand, the report reached and according to the opinions of the countries that responded to the text of the questionnaire about recording cases of fraud, counterfeiting and fraud in goods related to the products used to confront the Covid 19 pandemic, 70% of the countries that were informed of the existence of fraud and fraud practices reported fraud in the goods and fraud in specifications. For goods used in dealing with the pandemic, such as masks and disinfectants, as well as price manipulation and fraud to collect donations without a license.

The Financial Action Task Force for the Middle East and North Africa region conducted a questionnaire to request information from member states, including Tunisia, to assess the impact of the Corona pandemic on money laundering and terrorist financing systems. The group found that only 10% of the countries that answered the questionnaire conducted a comprehensive exercise. With regard to the national assessments related to the risks of the Coronavirus pandemic on the systems and procedures for combating money laundering and terrorist financing in the sectors under its supervision.

Regarding the existence of threats related to the Corona pandemic related to money laundering and terrorist financing through electronic crimes, 70% of countries responded to the questionnaire that there were no similar threats, and as for the remaining countries, they reported the existence of separate forms of cyber crimes that were detected during the pandemic period, For example, crimes in which the pattern of virtual currencies was used, the spread of rumors of medicines that treat Corona virus and other fake news through social media, and practices related to fraud and electronic fraud by using social media sites to steal electronic wallets data for customers and withdraw money from them later.

As for the potential risks associated with the Corona pandemic, as there are some financial and non-financial sectors that have special importance, they directly affect other sectors, especially in times of the Corona pandemic (Covid-19), and they include organizations, charitable societies and non-profit organizations. And financial sector institutions such as banks, exchange companies, money transfer companies, and some sectors related to specific non-financial businesses and professions such as trading in gold, precious metals and precious stones.

According to the responses received from the countries surveyed, 80% of the countries reported that there was no evidence of misuse of financial institutions in crimes of money laundering and terrorist financing and that have a direct relationship to the Corona pandemic, while they reported that 20% of them have cases related to the use of bank accounts in activities suspected of being used to collect Funds through electronic payment channels, and promoting it on social media.

In the same context, the Global Financial Action Task Force noted that the effects of the Corona pandemic have reached both public and private sectors, which poses a challenge in their ability to implement anti-money laundering and terrorist financing obligations in a number of aspects such as supervision and oversight, as well as increasing misuse of financial services via the Internet And virtual assets for the transfer and concealment of illegal funds, and the exploitation of economic stimulus measures as a means for natural and legal persons to conceal and launder the illicit proceeds, in addition to increasing the use of the un-organized financial sector and increasing monetary dealings, which leads to attracting criminals to economic activities that deal with cash heavily.

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By Ahlam Al-Basha, November 14, 2020, published on ar.lemaghreb.tn

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