The all-important APG visit



The all-important APG visit

The report by the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) will be crucial for Nepal as it would determine whether the country will be in status quo or not

Amid speculations about the composition of the new government, senior officials from the Prime Minister’s Office and Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) are busy briefing a delegation of the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) about progress made by Nepal in its anti-money laundering (AML) regime.

The delegation of APG, a regional inter-governmental body with 41 member states, is currently in Kathmandu for a field study as part of the mutual evaluation of Nepal. In the last two weeks, the team has met stakeholders ranging from the judiciary, central bank, revenue administration, police administration, to the Office of the Company Registrar. The assessment is carried out to see how the member country has introduced AML laws and regulations, developed institutional mechanisms, and taken action accordingly.

According to government officials, the APG delegation began a field study on Dec 5 by starting consultations with Nepali stakeholders on the legislative issues of AML, and they are now holding consultations regarding Nepal’s performance in the areas of implementation of AML laws.

This is the third time that the APG has been conducting Nepal’s mutual evaluation. Earlier, such evaluations were done in 2005 and 2010. As the nearly one and half-year-long mutual evaluation of Nepal’s compliance with anti-money laundering and combating terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regimes come to an end, all eyes are on the report that APG will present next July.

The finding will be crucial for Nepal, say government officials. According to them, the current evaluation is different from the earlier ones, as APG is now seeking institutional outcomes and effectiveness.

The APG report will determine whether Nepal will be under the International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG) monitoring of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global inter-governmental anti-money laundering body.

The report will be first discussed in the APG plenary that is going to take place in July next year. “A good score by APG will put Nepal in a comfort zone. If not, the plenary could decide to put us under ICRG monitoring. If Nepal is included in the ICRG monitoring, global AML bodies could call our authorities for periodic discussions and ask for improvements,” say officials. “If our efforts fail to satisfy the FATF, we could be on the ‘grey’ list.”

In order to avoid the ICRG monitoring, Nepal must show the significant progress it made in its AML regime. Nepal remained on the ‘grey list’ of FATF from 2008-2014. After a series of progress made on the AML regime that includes amendment of Anti-Money Laundering Act 2008, and the enactment of other laws, FATF finally removed Nepal from its ‘grey list’ in 2014.

“The mutual evaluation of Nepal by APG is currently going on. Nepal has made efforts to make progress in its AML regime. While those efforts may not be sufficient if we compare them with international best practices, we should strive to be at par with international best practices,” said Maha Prasad Adhikari, Governor of NRB.

According to government officials who are engaged with the APG team, progress made after Dec 16 will not be included in the APG’s Mutual Evaluation Report to be published in the middle of next year. “We must complete the remaining tasks to improve our compliance in the next few days,” says one official.

While the country has put laws and rules on AML in place, officials say the biggest weakness has been the enforcement of those laws. In order to address the legal loopholes, a Bill on Amending a Few Nepal Acts was registered in the House of Representatives. Part of the amendment included in the amendment bill was to amend the existing Money Laundering Prevention Act 2008.

As the parliament became inactive, it could not endorse the amendment bill. So, the government submitted an ordinance with the same provision to the President for authentication last month. The bill is yet to get the presidential stamp. “If the ordinance is authenticated before Dec 16, it will be a big help to keep the country out of the potential grey list,” says a ministry at the Ministry of Finance “We will be able to show our strength at least in the legislation if not in enforcement.”

The government’s weak performance in the areas of enforcement could put Nepal under the scanner of global anti-money laundering bodies. According to an official at NRB, when it comes to enforcement, big offenders have not been prosecuted which will reduce Nepal’s score in the areas of enforcement.

The prosecuting agencies such as the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the Department of Money Laundering Investigation, and the Department of Revenue Investigations are facing criticisms for not being able to prosecute ‘big fishes’.

Most of the cases in which CIAA filed corruption cases at the Special Court are related to small sting operations in recent years. After the Supreme Court in April 2021, barred the anti-graft body from conducting sting operations, saying that such acts go against the constitutional and legal provisions and the principle of criminal justice, both prosecution and conviction rates have slumped sharply. On the other hand, the Department of Money Laundering Investigation is yet to conclude its investigation into former CIAA Chief Commissioner Deep Basnyat.

The government’s own report – National Risks Assessment Report 2020 – a self-assessed progress report on Nepal’s compliance with AML/CFT, acknowledged weaknesses related to effective supervision of reporting entities, developing strong law enforcement relations with foreign counterparts with regards to capital flights, border management, implementation of forfeiture laws, independence of agencies and integrity of related officials.

Nepal’s other weakness is its failure to ensure that all the reporting entities make timely reporting about suspicious transactions and reporting about transactions over certain thresholds. According to the Strategic Analysis Report 2022 published by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) under the NRB, financial institutions are the main reporting entities while Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs) are in a nascent stage of reporting.

According to FIU’s annual report 2021-22, the share of suspicious transactions reporting and suspicious activities reporting reported by commercial banks ranges from over two third to 85 percent in the last six years. However, the number of reports from other entities is rather fluctuating. Some institutions such as cooperatives, and insurance companies, for example, have quite low reporting in comparison to their size in the overall financial system. As per the report, commercial banks alone comprise almost 90 percent of threshold transaction reporting (TTR).

What’s new in the bill? 

The government has broadened the scope of terrorism stating that any terrorist activities are carried out as defined by the existing laws. The Bill has provisions to criminalize the acts that facilitate the terrorists. It has criminalized the financial investment to people and entities that build weapons and mass destruction and proliferate them. The reporting entities such as banks and financial institutions, insurance companies, and others are required to take necessary measures against possible financing to create weapons and mass destruction as per the provision of the Bill. Those who are responsible for preventing money laundering and terrorist financing will be punished if they deliberately helped such acts. The Bill also has provisions that reporting entities are required to report suspicious transactions instantly instead of the existing provision which calls for reporting as soon as possible.

icon close
News Roadblock Ad (Always Use This to Change News Block ad)News Roadblock Ad (Always Use This to Change News Block ad)