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  • Updated FinCEN advisory warns of continued Venezuelan money laundering attempts

    Financial Crimes

    On May 3, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an updated advisory to warn financial institutions of continued public corruption and attempted money laundering related to Venezuelan government agencies and political figures. The advisory updates a September 2017 advisory (previously covered by InfoBytes here) and renews the description of public corruption in Venezuela. The advisory also describes how “corrupt Venezuelan senior political figures exploit a Venezuelan government-administered food program by directing overvalued, no-bid contracts to co-conspirators that use ‘an over-invoicing trade-based money laundering’” scheme, which involves, among other things, front or shell companies, non-dollar denominated accounts, and nested accounts designed to evade sanctions and anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) controls. The advisory also notes attempts by former President Maduro’s regime to evade sanctions and AML/CFT controls through the use of digital currency. The update provides revised financial red flags to assist with the identification and reporting of suspicious activity to FinCEN in connection with senior Venezuelan political figures.

    FinCEN further emphasizes that financial institutions should continue to follow a risk-based approach and that normal transactions involving Venezuelan business and nationals are not necessarily reflective of the aforementioned risks.

    See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Venezuela Of Interest to Non-US Persons Combating the Financing of Terrorism

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  • FATF releases permanent mandate to combat money laundering and other proliferation financing

    Financial Crimes

    On April 12, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) agreed to a permanent mandate for the FATF to continue its work against combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and the financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. FATF ministers agreed to meet every two years, starting in 2022, to support the commitment to implementing the mandate. Among other things, the mandate states the FATF will (i) develop and refine international standards for combating money laundering; (ii) respond to significant new and emerging threats to the global financial system; (iii) maintain engagement with other international organizations and bodies; and (iv) consult the private sector on matters relating to FATF’s work. The mandate also provides a detailed layout of the organization’s membership composition and internal organization.

    Financial Crimes Of Interest to Non-US Persons FATF Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism

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  • FinCEN updates list of FATF-identified jurisdictions with AML/CFT deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On March 8, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory reminding financial institutions that on February 22, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) updated two documents that list jurisdictions identified as having “strategic deficiencies” in their anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes. The first document, the FATF Public Statement, identifies two jurisdictions, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran, that are subject to countermeasures and/or enhanced due diligence due to their strategic AML/CFT deficiencies. The second document, Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: On-going Process, identifies the following jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies that have developed an action plan with the FATF to address those deficiencies: the Bahamas, Botswana, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Pakistan, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, and Yemen. Notably, Cambodia has been added to the list due to the lack of effective implementation of its AML/CFT framework. FATF further notes that several jurisdictions have not yet been reviewed, and that it “continues to identify additional jurisdictions, on an ongoing basis, that pose a risk to the international financial system.” Generally, financial institutions should consider both the FATF Public Statement and the Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: On-going Process documents when reviewing due diligence obligations and risk-based policies, procedures, and practices.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN FATF Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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  • U.S. Treasury concerned with European Commission's identification of AML/CFT-deficient U.S. territories

    Financial Crimes

    On February 13, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a statement responding to a list of jurisdictions published by the European Commission as having strategic deficiencies related to anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT). The list—which includes certain jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies that were already identified by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) (see previous InfoBytes coverage here)—also identifies 11 additional jurisdictions, including the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to the European Commission, the “banks and other entities covered by EU anti-money laundering rules will be required to apply increased checks (due diligence) on financial operations involving customers and financial institutions from these high-risk third countries to better identify any suspicious money flows.”

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury European Union Of Interest to Non-US Persons Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism FATF

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  • FinCEN updates list of FATF-identified jurisdictions with AML/CFT deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On October 31, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory reminding financial institutions that, on October 19, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) updated two documents that list jurisdictions identified as having “strategic deficiencies” in their anti-money laundering and combatting the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) The first document, the FATF Public Statement, identifies two jurisdictions, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran, that are subject to countermeasures and/or enhanced due diligence (EDD) due to their strategic AML/CFT deficiencies. The second document, Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: On-going Process - 19 October 2018, identifies jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies that have developed an action plan with the FATF to address those deficiencies: the Bahamas, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Pakistan, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, and Yemen. Notably, the Bahamas, Botswana and Ghana have been added to the list due to the lack of effective implementation of their AML/CFT frameworks. FinCEN urges financial institutions to consider both the FATF Public Statement and the Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: On-going Process documents when reviewing due diligence obligations and risk-based policies, procedures, and practices.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism FATF

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  • FATF updates standards to prevent misuse of virtual assets; reviews progress on jurisdictions with AML/CFT deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On October 19, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) issued a statement urging all countries to take measures to prevent virtual assets and cryptocurrencies from being used to finance crime and terrorism. FATF updated The FATF Recommendations to add new definitions for “virtual assets” and “virtual asset service providers” and to clarify how the recommendations apply to financial activities involving virtual assets and cryptocurrencies. FATF also stated that virtual asset service providers are subject to Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations, which require conducting customer due diligence, such as ongoing monitoring, record-keeping, and suspicious transaction reporting, and commented that virtual asset service providers should be licensed or registered and will be subject to compliance monitoring. However, FATF noted that its recommendations “require monitoring or supervision only for purposes of AML/CFT, and do not imply that virtual asset service providers are (or should be) subject to stability or consumer/investor protection safeguards.”

    The same day, FATF announced that several countries made “high-level political commitment[s]” to address AML/CFT strategic deficiencies through action plans developed to strengthen compliance with FATF standards. These jurisdictions are the Bahamas, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Pakistan, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, and Yemen. FATF also issued a public statement calling for continued counter-measures against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea due to significant AML/CFT deficiencies and the threats posed to the integrity of the international financial system, and enhanced due diligence measures with respect to Iran. However, FATF will continue its suspension of counter-measures due to Iran’s political commitment to address its strategic AML/CFT deficiencies.

    Financial Crimes FATF Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism Cryptocurrency Fintech Customer Due Diligence SARs

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  • FinCEN issues advisory on Iranian efforts to evade U.S. sanctions

    Financial Crimes

    On October 11, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory for financial institutions on ways to help better detect and report the Iranian regime's efforts to evade U.S. sanctions through potentially illicit transactions. The advisory outlines deceptive practices used by the Iranian regime to evade sanctions, including front companies, fraudulent documents, transactions involving exchange houses, falsified shipping documents, and the use of virtual currencies, and warns financial institutions that FinCEN expects Iran to expand use of these practices following the November 5 return of sanctions previously suspended as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here on Executive Order 13846, issued last August reimposing sanctions against Iran.) The advisory also includes a series of red flags to help banks identify possible deceptive activity, and provides information for filing suspicious activity reports. FinCEN advises foreign financial institutions to consult the advisory to “better understand the obligations of their U.S. correspondents, to avoid exposure to U.S. sanctions, and to address the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism risks that Iranian activity poses to the international financial system.”

    See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Iran Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism Sanctions Executive Order

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  • FinCEN, federal banking agencies provide exemption from customer identification program requirements for premium finance loans

    Financial Crimes

    On September 27, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, NCUA, and OCC (together, the agencies) collectively issued an interagency order announcing an exemption from the requirements of the customer identification program (CIP) rules for premium finance loans extended by banks to commercial customers. The exemption, which is effective immediately, will facilitate short-term financing to business to aid in the purchase of property and casualty insurance policies. The order states that FinCEN believes these types of loans present a low risk for money laundering due to the “purpose for which the loans are extended and the limitations on the ability of a customer to use such funds for any other purpose.” However, banks engaged in premium finance lending are still required to comply with all other regulatory requirements implementing the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), including filing suspicious activity reports. The federal banking agencies further determined that the order granting this exemption is consistent with both the purposes of the BSA and safe and sound banking practices. (See also Federal Reserve Board SR 18-6, FDIC FIL-52-2018, and OCC Bulletin 2018-35.)

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism OCC Federal Reserve FDIC NCUA Bank Secrecy Act Insurance

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  • FinCEN advisory reminds financial institutions about recent updates to the lists of FATF-identified jurisdictions with AML/CFT deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On September 21, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory reminding financial institutions that, on June 29, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) updated two documents that each list jurisdictions identified as having “strategic deficiencies” in their anti-money laundering and combatting the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regimes. The first document, the FATF Public Statement, identifies two jurisdictions, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran, that are subject to countermeasures and/or enhanced due diligence (EDD) due to their strategic AML/CFT deficiencies. The second document, the Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: On-going Process, identifies jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies. As further described in the document, FATF identified the following jurisdictions as having developed action plans to address their AML/CFT deficiencies: Ethiopia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, and Yemen. Notably, Pakistan has been added to the list based on FATF-identified AML/CFT deficiencies, whereas Iraq and Vanuatu have been removed from the list due to “significant progress in improving its AML/CFT regime . . . [and] establish[ing] the legal and regulatory framework to meet the commitments in its action plan.” FinCEN urges financial institutions to consider both the FATF Public Statement and the Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance: On-going Process documents when reviewing due diligence obligations and risk-based policies, procedures, and practices.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism

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  • FinCEN director discusses approach to virtual currency and emerging technology

    Financial Crimes

    On August 9, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Director Kenneth A. Blanco delivered remarks at the 2018 Chicago-Kent Block (Legal) Tech Conference to discuss, among other things, the agency’s approach to virtual currency and its efforts to protect financial institutions from being exploited for illicit financing purposes as new financial technologies evolve and are adopted. Blanco commented that while innovation provides customers with greater access to financial services, it can also create opportunities for criminals or serve as a vehicle for fraud. Blanco discussed several areas of focus, such as (i) the regulation of virtual currency and initial coin offerings (ICOs), along with coordinated policy development and regulatory approaches done in conjunction with the SEC and CFTC; (ii) examination and supervision efforts designed to “proactively mitigate potential illicit finance risks associated with virtual currency”; (iii) anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regulatory compliance expectations for companies involved in ICOs or virtual currency transmissions; (iv) enforcement actions taken against companies that fail to implement effective programs; (v) the rise and importance of virtual currency suspicious activity report filings which help the agency identify and investigate illicit activity; and (vi) the development of an information sharing virtual currency-focused FinCEN Exchange program. Blanco emphasized that “individuals and entities engaged in the business of accepting and transmitting physical currency or convertible virtual currency from one person to another or to another location are money transmitters subject to the requirements” of the Bank Secrecy Act.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Bank Secrecy Act Virtual Currency Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism SARs SEC CFTC Fintech Initial Coin Offerings

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