New action plan items by FATF to be fulfilled in 12 months: Hammad Azhar

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Federal Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar said on Friday that the seven items on the money laundering action plan, given to Pakistan after the latest plenary session of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), would be completed in 12 months.

The global financial watchdog announced today that Pakistan will continue to remain on its “increased monitoring list”, also known as the grey list, till it addresses the only remaining item on the original action plan agreed to in June 2018 as well as all items on a parallel action plan identified by the watchdog’s regional partner, the Asia Pacific Group (APG), in 2019.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad soon after the FATF decision, Azhar said the new action plan concerned money laundering and was “less difficult” to implement since Pakistan was considered a low-risk territory for money laundering compared to other countries.

“We have set a target to complete the second seven-point action plan in 12 months [while] normally countries take two years.”

The federal minister said that 75 of the 82 technical points on the overall agenda given to Pakistan had already been completed and the remaining seven items were “less challenging [to fulfil]”.

Meanwhile, the sole remaining item on financial terrorism in the FATF’s original action plan would be completed in three to four months, in time for the next FATF plenary session, he said.

The federal minister said the 27-point action plan, agreed to in June 2018, had been based on terror financing and was “very challenging and difficult for any country, especially Pakistan, because we were declared high-risk in terror financing so our compliance thresholds were higher”.

“It is necessary to complete both plans to exit the grey list,” he said, adding that there was no threat of Pakistan being designated to the black list, instead, discussions were now ongoing on when Pakistan would transition to the white list.

The federal minister said that there was no threat of sanctions from other countries due to Pakistan remaining in the grey list.

He said the FATF president had thanked Pakistan and noted its exemplary role, adding that “Pakistan’s progress in achieving compliance with the action plan items was being acknowledged.”

The FATF called for increased regulation on sectors such as real estate and jewellers since it felt more effectiveness was needed against money laundering, said Azhar, adding that it also called for better monitoring of trusts and beneficial ownerships as well as a quicker turnaround in money laundering investigations being taken to prosecution and in greater numbers.

Responding to a question, Azhar said Pakistan was not told that progress related to the FATF was linked to the geopolitical designs of any country, rather, its methodology was based on mutual evaluation by all members.

Any progress reported to the FATF was based on technical grounds, not political, said the energy minister, adding that dramatic increases in compliance had been noted every time Pakistan’s compliance was evaluated.

“We will keep the process sustainable with the same political will and take it forward,” he said.

Azhar also hit out at India, saying its face had been “badly unveiled” and it had “overplayed its hand”, because of which everyone now knew that it had one purpose – to politicise the forum.

“I think India’s thoughts and politicisation efforts there [in the forum] are losing weight with time because they have become so visible.”

The federal minister said Pakistan’s financial and banking system had been found to be compliant according to FATF regulations so there would be no new strict measures imposed though current monitoring levels would continue.

“With regards to money laundering, there are no two opinions in our party (PTI) and the strictest laws will be made for money laundering,” said Azhar, adding that not just legislation but its enforcement would be ensured as well.

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