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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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Brexit Woes

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With just six weeks remaining before United Kingdom’s (UK) exit from the European Union (EU) termed as Brexit, Theresa May’s government does not seem to be making much progress and her opponents seem to be calling her out on this front. As Europe’s biggest crisis in decades stares it in the face and Britain, once its biggest and most powerful constituent seems to the on the ropes, the entire world is watching.

UK’s PM Theresa May suffered yet another blow from her parliament as legislators voted against her renegotiated deal with the EU. Just weeks after renegotiating the deal with European Union after MPs in the lower house voted 317 to 301 to order her to seek new terms with the bloc, she again failed to sell the deal to her parliament who on Thursday voted 303 to 258 against the motion. This paves the way for a no deal Brexit situation as the March 29st deadline is fast approaching. A no deal Brexit could have disastrous consequences for Britain in terms of loss of business, loss of jobs and not to mention the impact it can have on the pound.

For Britain to negotiate a successful Brexit deal, UK PM Theresa May must reach an agreement with the European Union and then get the same deal passed through her Parliament. Many in May’s own government do not view her as a strong leader and hence do not seem to be supporting her actions with opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn urging May to “admit her Brexit strategy has failed”.  May, however, shrugged off the latest defeat and termed it as a temporary difference of opinion and seems to be confident her strategy would see the light of day.

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China decries ‘political manipulations’ behind Huawei case in US

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Beijing | China on Tuesday decried the “political manipulations” behind the US case against Huawei as Washington indicted the tech giant’s chief financial officer and levelled sweeping charges against the company.

“For some time, the US has used state power to discredit and crack down on specific Chinese companies in an attempt to strangle the enterprises’ legitimate and legal operations,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

“There are strong political motivations and political manipulations behind the actions.”

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PAK, UAE sign USD 3 billion bailout package

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Islamabad | Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Tuesday signed a USD 3 billion bailout package, as part of Abu Dhabi’s support to boost the cash-strapped country’s dwindling dollar reserves.

The UAE in December last year had announced to provide USD 3 billion financial assistance to Pakistan after Saudi Arabia made a similar commitment to help Islamabad successfully overcome international payment crisis and to avoid a stringent International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal.

Tuesday’s agreement was signed between State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) chief Tariq Bajwa and Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) Director General Mohammed Saif Al Suwaidi.

“UAE has formalized US$3bn deposit in the State Bank of Pakistan. DG ADFD & the Governor SBP inked the agreement at #ADFD Headquarters in Abu Dhabi,” Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal tweeted.

He said the agreement will help Pakistan achieve financial stability and overcome economic challenges and noted ADFD’s support over the years to stimulate Pakistan’s economic growth and sustainable development.

Speaking on the occasion, Suwaidi said, “The directive to deposit USD 3 billion with the State Bank of Pakistan aligns with the UAE leadership’s keenness to bolster Pakistan’s economy, help its government achieve financial stability and overcome economic challenges, and drive comprehensive development in the country.”

He added, “ADFD and the Government of Pakistan have enjoyed strong and long-standing ties dating back to 1981. The Fund’s efforts have significantly contributed to improving socio-economic conditions in the country, boosting strategic growth and achieving the development priorities of the Pakistani government.

To date, ADFD has provided AED1.5 billion to fund sustainable development projects in Pakistan spanning diverse sectors, including transport, water and agriculture, healthcare, and education, according to a press release.

The UAE had committed the financial assistance during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Qatar last month to seek investment and provision of LNG on deferred payments.

Pakistan has a 15-year contract with Qatar for a supply of LNG.

The Saudi and the UAE governments have played a major role in helping Pakistan to meet around USD 12 billion shortfall in balance of payments in 2018-19 fiscal year, government officials said.

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