EU – New methodology for identifying high-risk third countries
EU Commission steps up fight against money laundering and terrorist financing- Questions and Answers
Why do you need a new methodology to identify high-risk third countries?
Identifying and tackling money-laundering activities is a moving target. Criminal techniques develop fast and take into account the latest technological developments. The new methodology aims at tackling these issues and updating our capacity to successfully identify high-risk third countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing regimes that pose significant threats to our Single Market.
In addition, under the Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD), the Commission has a legal obligation to identify high-risk third countries with strategic deficiencies in their legal systems regarding money laundering and terrorist financing. This is to ensure that enhanced due diligence measures are applied, for example, by relevant EU businesses when carrying out financial transactions involving those third countries.
The 5th AMLD, adopted in July 2018, further strengthened the criteria for the identification of high-risk third countries, going beyond the criteria of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), in particular as regards beneficial ownership information.
The Council objected to the list presented by the Commission on 13 February 2019. The Commission has worked within that legal framework to address concerns expressed by the Council as regards the transparency of the process and the need to incentivise third countries and respect their right to be heard.
The key new elements of today’s refined methodology for identifying high-risk third countries concern: (i) the interaction between the EU and FATF listing process; (ii) an enhanced engagement with third countries subject to the autonomous assessment; and (iii) reinforced consultation of Member States experts.
The European Parliament and the Council will have access to all relevant information at the different stages of the procedures, subject to appropriate handling requirements.
What are the criteria used for listing a third country at EU level?
The 4th Anti-Money Laundering Directive (AMLD) sets out the technical criteria for identifying high-risk third countries. These requirements have been revised by the 5th Anti Money Laundering Directive in order to provide even more robust criteria.
Under the AMLD, the Commission takes into account strategic deficiencies of those countries, in particular in relation to the legal and institutional AML/CFT (anti-money laundering / countering the financing of terrorism) framework such as:
o criminalisation of money laundering and terrorist financing,
o customer due diligence and record keeping requirements,
o reporting of suspicious transactions,
o the availability and exchange of information on beneficial ownership of legal persons and legal arrangements;
o the powers and procedures of competent authorities;
o their practice in international cooperation;
o the existence of dissuasive, proportionate and effective sanctions.
As a general requirement, the effectiveness in applying those AML/CFT safeguards will be considered. When carrying out its assessment, the Commission considers relevant evaluations, assessments or reports drawn up by relevant international organisations and standard setters – in particular those issued by FATF – as well as other information sources.
Once the new methodology is in place, who will be consulted?
Member State experts will be consulted at every stage of the process regarding the assessments of third country regimes, the definition of mitigating measures, third countries’ implementation of “EU Benchmarks” and the preparation of the Delegated Regulation. This consultation will include specific Member State competent authorities (law enforcement, intelligence services, Financial Intelligence Units). The European Parliament will be fully involved in those consultations.
The Commission is committed to ensuring appropriate reporting to the European Parliament. Both the European Parliament and the Council will have access to all relevant information at the different stages of the procedures, subject to appropriate handling requirements.
How often will the list be updated?
The EU list will be updated one month following the publication of an updated FATF list, which the Commission considers as a baseline. In addition, the Commission will identify further third countries based on its own autonomous assessment, after having engaged with those countries as set out in the refined methodology published today.
The Commission will immediately identify those countries that refuse to take commitments to address their strategic deficiencies (“non-cooperative jurisdictions”) or those third countries that have an overriding level of risk. Third countries taking commitments to address concerns, as part of the Commission’s autonomous assessment, will benefit from a 12-month observation period. In case they do not implement those commitments within the agreed period, the Commission will proceed with a listing.
How does the FATF lists interact with the EU list?
Third countries listed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will in principle also be listed by the EU. For countries de-listed by FATF, the Commission will assess whether the reasoning for de-listing is also sufficiently comprehensive from the EU’s point of view.
With regard to EU Accession countries, the Commission may develop other mitigating measures in the context of the accession negotiations that address the identified strategic deficiencies. Accession countries could take commitments that go beyond the FATF action plans. This will be closely monitored by the Commission. This option does not apply to third countries that are not in the process of acceding to the EU.
In specific circumstances – for example, if a third country has strategic deficiencies in its anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing regime that pose a significant threat to the EU or if certain requirements related to beneficial ownership transparency are in question – certain EU requirements can “top up” the existing FATF Action Plan.
If a third country presents a risk and is not yet subject to the FATF procedure, the Commission or Member States should flag this in FATF before considering adding this country to the EU’s autonomous list.
What is the link between the AML listing process and the EU’s list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions?
The EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions and the EU’s AML lists may overlap on some of the countries they feature, but they have different objectives, criteria, compilation processes and consequences. The EU’s tax list is a Council-led process, whereas the EU’s anti-money laundering (AML) list is established by the Commission based on EU anti-money laundering rules.
The high-risk third country (AML) list aims to address risks to the EU’s financial system caused by third countries with deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regimes. On the basis of this list, banks must apply higher due diligence controls to financial flows involving those high risk third countries. The anti-money laundering list is compiled by the Commission.
On the other hand, the common EU list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions addresses the external risks to Member States’ tax bases, posed by third countries that do not comply with international tax good governance standards. It is managed directly by the Member States, through the Code of Conduct Group, with the support of the Commission.
The Code of Conduct Group decides which jurisdictions should be listed and makes a recommendation to EU Finance Ministers, who take the final decision. Nonetheless, the two lists complement each other in ensuring a double protection for the Single Market from external risks.
Why does the Commission not propose a “grey list” of countries being assessed?
Unlike the EU’s list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions, the Anti-Money Laundering Directive only provides for one single list of “high risk third countries” based on identification of strategic deficiencies in the anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing regime in a given country.
It does not provide for a “black list” or “grey list.” As a result, the Commission considers that such a “grey list” cannot be issued, as no firm conclusion would be reached on the existence of strategic deficiencies.
The Commission will, however, ensure full transparency with the European Parliament and Council throughout the process of engaging, in cooperation with the European External Action Service, with third countries, so that the co-legislators can monitor progress in the implementation of this new methodology, including in the drafting of EU benchmarks and assessing their implementation within the given timeframe.