Guatemala removed from money-laundering blacklist

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The Independent Online

Only six countries remain blacklisted as money-laundering havens after the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removed Guatemala from the roster of Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories last week.

Only six countries remain blacklisted as money-laundering havens after the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removed Guatemala from the roster of Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories last week.

This leaves just Indonesia, Cook Islands, Burma, Nauru, Nigeria and the Philippines on the list, whose numbers have dropped dramatically since 11 September, when the US began applying economic pressure on countries that might be used by terrorists laundering money. The total is down from 30 in the 1990s and 15 in 2001, though why Dubai - considered by many to be the world's main money-laundering centre - is not on the list remains a puzzle to many financial services experts.

"Guatemala has worked with FATF representatives to achieve a positive result, and the FATF will continue to monitor its progress," a spokesman said at the conclusion of the task force's plenary meeting in Paris last week. Its removal from the list was helped by new laws for licensing and supervising offshore banking, identifying the risk posed by customers of financial institutions and reporting suspicious transactions, according to the task force.

Guatemala was added to the blacklist in June 2001. At the time, the country had not criminalised the laundering of illicit funds apart from drug proceeds, the task force said. In addition, its laws included secrecy provisions that "constituted a considerable obstacle to administrative counter-money-laundering authorities," the organisation said.

Guatemala is the third country this year to be removed from the blackist. Egypt and the Ukraine were taken off during the task force's plenary meeting in February.

"As an international body with a wide membership but a focused mandate, the FATF is in a uniquely strong position to overcome the myriad differences in financial systems to make it harder for terrorists and criminals to smuggle their cash," the FATF's president, Claes Norgren, said after last week's meeting. "We can help stop this flow of illegal funds."

The task force has also begun "a detailed investigation [of cash couriers] with an eye towards co-ordinated action this year". Terrorist groups view these couriers as an attractive alternative to electronic cash transfers.

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