Nepal asked to act with urgency to avoid blacklisting
MILAN MANI SHARMA
KATHMANDU, May 10: Asia Pacific Group (APG), the regional wing of global anti-money laundering (AML) body, has urged Nepal to act with urgency to enact new laws that bolsters fight against dirty money within June, failing which the country might face tough action.
Such a strong-worded caution from the anti-money laundering watchdog came while reviewing the country´s compliance status on 49 recommendations, which Financial Action Task Force (FATF) laid down.
During the meeting, the Nepali delegation led by Trilochan Upreti, Secretary at the Prime Minister´s Office apprised the APG officials on initiatives taken by the government so far, like enforcement of five-year AML action plan and issue of directives by NRB to track dirty money, among others.
As the team had fewer recent developments to cite to defend the country´s position, they briefed the APG officials about latest progresses made on the political front, like completion of the peace process and fresh changes in government to get the constitution in place by May 28.
“We informed them that such a development had raised optimism that the country will be able to enact laws related with extradition, organized crime control and mutual cooperation in fight against dirty money and terrorism financing by June - a new deadline of FATF,” said a member of the team.
He told Republica that queries of APG officials were tough, as usual; but they understood Nepal´s special political situation. “However, they were stern when they said Nepal should not always expect leniency from the international community on political ground alone,” said the source.
The APG had called the face-to-face meeting of about a dozen countries that lagged behind in complying with AML norms from May 8 to 12 and had grilled the Nepali officials on the very first day of the event.
Finance Secretary Krishna Hari Baskota, who is also the coordinator of the high-level AML coordination committee, said that the APG officials suggested Nepal to step up the pace with which Nepal was dealing with the sensitive AML laws. “Mainly they suggested us to take note of timelines of compliance,” he told Republica.
Going by the commitments that Nepal has made at FATF meet in February - something which saved the country from being blacklisted then, Nepal is required to enact the three laws related to money laundering at the earliest and also step up actions against financial criminals, among others.
However, as the government and lawmakers busied themselves in completing the peace process and constitution drafting, they so far largely pushed the AML commitments to the backburner.
Though the government has already tabled the three crucial bills -- Extradition Bill, Mutual Cooperation Bill and Bill to Control Organized Crime -- at the parliament, the House has not picked it up due to protest of the Baidya faction of the UCPN (Maoist).
Failing to fulfill commitments made at the international forum, Nepal had found itself on the verge of being blacklisted by the FATF in February as well. But it escaped the action after PM Bhattarai personally committed in writing that the government would enact the three crucial laws soon and step up actions against flow of dirty money.
“If we failed to adhere to June deadline, we will certainly face the wrath of the international community and will be blacklisted in Rome meeting,” said the source. If that happened, the international community would instantly stop honoring letters of credit and payments issued by Nepali traders.
While that will seriously jeopardize country´s trade, donors too would stop issuing aid and foreign investors would be encouraged to pull out their investments.