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Asia Pacific Group talks tough, asks Pak to enact appropriate laws to curb terror financing

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Islamabad  |   An international delegation monitoring Pakistan’s commitments to the global financial watchdog FATF has urged Islamabad to make terror financing and money laundering extraditable offences, a media report said today.

The Asia Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering, which is currently in Pakistan, will submit a report to the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which placed Pakistan on its ‘grey list’ in June.

The APG’s Mutual Evaluation report can play a critical role in retaining or removing Pakistan from the list after September next year.

Islamabad needs to comply by the end of September next year with a 10-point action plan it committed to the FATF in June to combat terror financing and money laundering to get out of the greylist, or else fall into the blacklist.

Placement on the greylist hurts a country’s economy as well as its international standing.

The Express Tribune reported that delegation yesterday urged Pakistan to enact appropriate laws, enabling local officials to act upon requests of foreign countries to freeze illegal assets and extradite those involved in terrorism financing and money laundering.

The delegation met officials of the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) of the State Bank of Pakistan, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and representatives of the ministries of foreign affairs and interior.

It urged the country to make terror financing and money laundering extraditable offences.

Highlighting deficiencies in Pakistan’s legal framework, the visiting APG team pointed out that this could hamper Pakistan’s effective response on requests of mutual legal assistance by foreign countries in money laundering cases, officials said.

Stressing the need for strengthening domestic legal framework by October, members of the APG team an on-site inspection would be carried out by the regional body after this period.

It also urged the authorities concerned to give predicate offence monitoring powers to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The group’s other areas of concerns were activities by non-profit organisations, narcotics trafficking and proceeds of crimes.

The team comprises officials from the US, Turkey, China and the UK. Officials from the US Treasury and the UK’s New Scotland Yard are part of the delegation.

Discussions are taking place on technical grounds where Pakistani authorities are trying to address the APG’s concerns.

During its third day of the visit, the AGP team discussed the status of implementation of the FATF recommendations on supervision of financial institutions, challenges posed by beneficial ownership and trusts, the targeted financial sanctions against terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and mutual legal assistance and extradition.

After discussions, the AGP will prepare the second draft of technical compliance report before October, which can be improved upon during the mutual evaluation on-site visit, scheduled for October.

Pakistani authorities were of the view that each department had its own mutual legal assistance arrangement, which could meet the needs of other countries. However, they said that this did not fully persuade the APG team.

Pakistan is also not a signatory to mutual legal assistance treaties with countries such as the US, the UK, Canada, the UAE, Malaysia and Thailand.

Officials said that the APG team also expressed concerns about implementing recommendations on extradition of criminals involved in money laundering and terrorism financing.

The FATF makes it mandatory for member countries to deny safe havens to individuals charged with the financing of terrorism, terrorist acts or terrorist organisations.

Various departments gave presentations to the APG on their role in curbing money laundering and terrorism financing.

The visiting experts were largely satisfied with the performance of Anti Narcotics Force, SECP and NAB. But they sought improvements in the skill sets of the Financial Monitoring Unit and National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA).

Discussions were also held on effective supervision of financial institutions to ensure that the secrecy laws did not hamper implementation of the FATF recommendations.

The visiting experts also stressed that beneficial ownership should not be used to protect the proceeds of crimes.

They also discussed Pakistan’s legal and regulatory regimes on beneficial ownership and trusts, which could be used for laundering money.

Pakistani authorities are learnt to have informed the APG team about measures taken by the country to comply with the United Nations Security Council resolution 1267 and 1373, targeting financial sanctions against terrorists.

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‘I can’t breathe’ were Jamal Khashoggi’s final words: Reports

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Washington | Jamal Khashoggi‘s final words were “I can’t breathe”, CNN has said, citing a source who has read the transcript of an audio tape of the final moments before the journalist’s murder. The source told the US network the transcript made clear the killing was premeditated, and suggests several phone calls were made to give briefings on the progress.

CNN said on Sunday Turkish officials believe those calls were made to top officials in Riyadh. Khashoggi, a Saudi contributor to The Washington Post, was killed shortly after entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2. The transcript of the gruesome recording includes descriptions of Khashoggi struggling against his murderers, CNN said, and references sounds of the dissident journalist’s body “being dismembered by a saw.”

The original transcript was prepared by Turkish intelligence services, and CNN said its source read a translation version and was briefed on the probe into the journalist’s death. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Sunday meanwhile rejected demands to extradite suspects connected to the murder of Khashoggi as sought by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan has repeatedly called on Saudi Arabia to hand over suspects in the killing. According to Turkey, a 15-member Saudi team was sent to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia, however, holds that it was a “rogue” operation gone wrong — a claim undercut by the reported transcript.

For his part US President Donald Trump has refrained from blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, even though the CIA reportedly concluded that he ordered the assassination. The murder has damaged Riyadh’s international reputation and Western countries including the United States, France and Canada have placed sanctions on nearly 20 Saudi nationals.

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Macron to address nation on ‘yellow vest’ crisis Monday: French presidency

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Macron, also set to meet trade unionists and business leaders Monday, is expected to announce “immediate and concrete measures” to respond to the crisis.

 

Paris| French President Emmanuel Macron will address the nation on Monday, the Elysee said, following the four weeks of “yellow vest” anti-government protests, which have turned violent.

The president’s office said he would address the nation at 19.00 GMT, but did not provide other details. Macron, also set to meet trade unionists and business leaders Monday, is expected to announce “immediate and concrete measures” to respond to the crisis, according to Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud.

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Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou facing US extradition, appears in court

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Vancouver | A Canadian prosecutor urged a Vancouver court to deny bail to a Chinese executive at the heart of a case that is shaking up US-China relations and worrying global financial markets. Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei and daughter of its founder, was detained at the request of the US during a layover at the Vancouver airport last Saturday — the same day that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping of China agreed over dinner to a 90-day ceasefire in a trade dispute that threatens to disrupt global commerce.

The US alleges that Huawei used a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment in Iran in violation of US sanctions. It also says that Meng and Huawei misled American banks about its business dealings in Iran. The surprise arrest, already denounced by Beijing, raises doubts about whether the trade truce will hold and whether the world’s two biggest economies can resolve the complicated issues that divide them.

“I think it will have a distinctively negative effect on the US-China talks,” said Philip Levy, senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an economic adviser in President George W Bush’s White House.  “There’s the humiliating way this happened right before the dinner, with Xi unaware. Very hard to save face on this one. And we may see (Chinese retaliation), which will embitter relations.” Canadian prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley said in a court hearing on Friday that a warrant had been issued for Meng’s arrest in New York August 22.  He said Meng, arrested en route to Mexico from Hong Kong, was aware of the investigation and had been avoiding the United States for months, even though her teenage son goes to school in Boston.

Gibb-Carsley alleged that Huawei had done business in Iran through a Hong Kong company called Skycom. Meng, he said, had misled US banks into thinking that Huawei and Skycom were separate when, in fact, “Skycom was Huawei.” Meng has contended that Huawei sold Skycom in 2009. In urging the court to reject Meng’s bail request, Gibb-Carsley said the Huawei executive had vast resources and a strong incentive to bolt: She’s facing fraud charges in the United States that could put her in prison for 30 years.

Meng’s lawyer, David Martin, argued that it would be unfair to deny her bail just because she “has worked hard and has extraordinary resources.” He told the court that her personal integrity and respect for her father, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, would prevent her violating a court order. Meng, who owns two homes in Vancouver, was willing to wear an ankle bracelet and put the houses up as collateral, he said. There was no bail decision by the judge on Friday so Meng will spend the weekend in jail and the hearing will resume Monday.

Justice William Ehrcke said he would think about proposed bail conditions over the weekend. Huawei, in a brief statement emailed to the AP, said that “we have every confidence that the Canadian and US legal systems will reach the right conclusion.” The company is the world’s biggest supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies and long has been seen as a front for spying by the Chinese military or security services. “What’s getting lost in the initial frenzy here is that Huawei has been in the crosshairs of US regulators for some time,” said Gregory Jaeger, special counsel at the Stroock law firm and a former Justice Department trial attorney.

“This is the culmination of what is likely to be a fairly lengthy investigation.” Meng’s arrest came as a jarring surprise after the Trump-Xi trade cease-fire in Argentina. Exact details of the agreement are elusive. But the White House said Trump suspended for 90 days an import tax hike on USD 200 billion in Chinese goods that was set to take effect January 1; in return, the White House said, the Chinese agreed to buy a “very substantial amount of agricultural, energy, industrial” and other products from the United States.

The delay was meant to buy time for the two countries to resolve a trade conflict that has been raging for months. The US charges that China is using predatory tactics in its drive to overtake America’s dominance in technology and global economic leadership. These allegedly include forcing American and other foreign companies to hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market and engaging in cyber theft.

Washington also regards Beijing’s ambitious long-term development plan, “Made in China 2025,” as a scheme to dominate such fields as robotics and electric vehicles by unfairly subsidising Chinese companies and discriminating against foreign competitors. The United States has imposed tariffs on USD 250 billion in Chinese goods to pressure Beijing to change its ways.

Trump has threatened to expand the tariffs to include just about everything China ships to the United States. Beijing has lashed back with tariffs on about USD 110 billion in American exports.

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