Finance Ministry disagrees with EC for including Ghana on money laundering blacklist

Finance Ministry disagrees with EC for including Ghana on money laundering blacklist

Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta

The Ministry of Finance has described the European Commission’s (EC) proposal to include Ghana on its list of countries with deficiencies in battling Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing Terrorism (AML/CFT) as unfortunate and regretful.

The European Commission earlier this month, put Ghana on the list of countries with deficiencies in its AML/CFT frameworks.

This was due to claims by the EC that the country has strategic deficiencies in its AML/CFT regimes.  The Vice-President of the EC, Valdis Dombrovskis had said the European Union needed to put a stop to laundered money penetrating its financial system.

However, the Ministry of Finance in a statement on the 21st of May 2020, has cast doubts on the method used to arrive at the decision, citing similar infractions in a publication last year.

 

“Just as the methodology used to publish a similar list on 13th February, 2019, which was eventually withdrawn due to lack of clarity and transparency in the process of identifying third countries, we consider the methodology used to come up with this new list once again unfortunate.”

 

As such, the Ministry’s statement noted that it is surprised at the EC’s proposal to the European Union because Ghana in recent years has demonstrated a firm commitment to toughen its AML/CFT regimes.

The Ministry further argued that, this move is coming at the time that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and other relevant international agencies have “always acknowledged Ghana’s effort in enhancing its anti-money laundering regime in various platforms which the European Union itself was represented.”

 

The statement added that, “On the contrary, when Ghana’s progress report was being discussed at the last FATF Plenary meetings held in Paris, France on 19th to 21st February, 2020, no adverse comment came from the EC. It is, therefore, a surprise for the EC to mention Ghana as one of the countries to be added to her list of high risk third countries barely three months afterwards.”

 

The Finance Ministry had also pointed out that the EC had taken the decision without recourse to the government.

 

“It is unfortunate that the European Union took this action without any proper engagement with government concerning any short comings that needed to be addressed.”

 

The Ministry, therefore, strongly indicates that the EC’s proposal to blacklist Ghana as a part of “high risk jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies… does not reflect exactly the current status of Ghana’s AML/CFT regime.”

Despite the Ministry’s stance on the issue, it made it clear that the leadership of the country is willing to cooperate with the EC to make known the actual status of Ghana’s AML/CFT regime.

 

“This is unfortunate, and the Government of Ghana is always ready to engage with the EC about the true status of the country’s AML/CFT regime and efforts being made to strengthen same.”

 

The Third World countries put on the list include four African states, namely; Botswana, Ghana, Mauritius and Zimbabwe. The others are Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, Cambodia, Mongolia and Myanmar.

This makes the number of blacklisted countries with deficiencies in their AML/CFT by the EU 22 in total.

However, the recent list is yet to be approved by the European Parliament and once Okayed, will come into force in October this year.

 

Below is the full statement;

Ghana regrets 7th May, 2020 publication by the European Commission (EC) proposing to the European Union Parliament to add Ghana to its list of high risk third countries with strategic deficiencies in their Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes on 1st October, 2020.

Ghana over the years has demonstrated a strong commitment to strengthening its AML/CFT regime.  Indeed, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global standard setting on AML/CFT has always acknowledged Ghana’s efforts in enhancing its AML/CFT regime at various platforms of which the EC is always represented.

  1. Just as the methodology used to publish a similar list on 13thFebruary, 2019, which was eventually withdrawn due to lack of clarity and transparency in the process of identifying third countries, we consider the methodology used to come up with this new list once again unfortunate. It is instructive to state that, the European Commission has not engaged Ghana concerning any shortcomings that needed to be addressed nor was the country given the opportunity to implement corrective measures. On the contrary, when Ghana’s progress report was being discussed at the last FATF Plenary meetings held in Paris, France on 19th to 21st February, 2020, no adverse comment came from the EC. It is, therefore, a surprise for the EC to mention Ghana as one of the countries to be added to her list of high risk third countries barely three months afterwards. 
  2. You may recall that, following the discussion of Ghana’s Mutual Evaluation Report by FATF during their plenary meetings in October 2018, FATF identified some strategic deficiencies in the country’s AML/CFT framework, and has worked with Ghana to draw up a two year Action Plan (2019 -2020) to address same.
  3. The country has since been having periodic face-to-face meetings with the ICRG to assess the progress of implementation of the Action Plan. The last face-to-face meeting was from 15thto 17thJanuary, 2020 in Rabat, Morocco. It is worth mentioning that, since the action plan was adopted, Ghana has consistently demonstrated a high-level political commitment to implementing the action plan and has always received positive commendations from the FATF.
  4. Indeed, the International Country Risk Guide (ICRG) in their report to the FATF Plenary meetings in February, 2020 acknowledged that all timelines due have been met and some action items addressed even ahead of their timelines.
  5. The European Commission’s proposal to include Ghana in the list of high risk jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies, therefore, does not reflect exactly the current status of Ghana’s AML/CFT regime. This is unfortunate, and the Government of Ghana is always ready to engage with the EC about the true status of the country’s AML/CFT regime and efforts being made to strengthen same.