Botswana has strengthened its capabilities to fight money laundering

Supportive: Pleyer has praised Botswana’s efforts in plugging money laundering gaps PIC: SUPPLIED
Supportive: Pleyer has praised Botswana’s efforts in plugging money laundering gaps PIC: SUPPLIED

Money laundering fuels serious crime and terrorism. It harms societies by enabling a wide range of criminal activity such as drugs and arms trafficking, human trafficking and terrorist attacks.

The government of Botswana is aware of these dangers and this month achieved a major milestone by completing a reform programme to crackdown on illicit finance. I congratulate the Botswana authorities on the enormous amount of work they have undertaken to achieve this result. There is good reason to celebrate Botswana’s progress. Since being listed in 2018 on the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) increased monitoring list, the so-called grey list, Botswana has succeeded in improving its implementation of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing controls. Botswana has made legal and regulatory changes, and significantly reformed the way its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing system works in practice. These changes represent a real increase in Botswana’s effectiveness in detecting and investigating illicit finance and preventing it in the first place. Among its achievements, Botswana has: Established a legal framework and strengthened cooperation between government institutions Solidified the Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA) as the central agency for reporting and analysing suspicious financial transactions Strengthened the capacity of both non-financial sector and financial sector supervisors to ensure businesses are compliant with their anti-money laundering obligations These are just some of the reforms that Botswana has implemented to prevent and combat serious crime and terrorism and harden the defences of its financial system. Up until this month, Botswana was one of more than twenty countries included on the FATF’s grey list due to weaknesses in their ability to fight money laundering and terrorist financing. Following the comprehensive actions taken by the Botswana authorities, and a successful on-site visit to Gaborone by an FATF team to verify progress, Botswana has been removed from increased monitoring.

This achievement only happened due to the hard work and determination of officials who recognised that changes needed to be made. The Botswana government has given a clear, ongoing, and robust commitment to continue to take action to strengthen its systems. As the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, the FATF welcomes this commitment. The FATF’s regional partner in the region, ESAAMLG, will continue to monitor the country’s progress and assess whether new measures are in line with the FATF’s international standards that more than 200 countries and jurisdictions have committed to implement.

The threat from criminal and terrorist groups is constantly evolving, so all countries need to remain vigilant. Going forward, I strongly encourage Botswana to continue to prioritise the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. It is imperative for authorities to ensure that all sectors appropriately address the risks identified in the country’s National Risk Assessment. Law enforcement agencies should extend their use of financial intelligence, especially concerning complex and high-end money laundering cases. Financial supervisors should focus more on risk understanding, monitoring and internal capacity-building to improve their abilities to detect illicit finance. This work is challenging. But the political will demonstrated by Botswana’s leaders means I expect the country to continue to take the necessary steps. I welcome the assurances of the President, Minister of Finance, Minister of Justice and many other high ranking government ministers for their support in this area. I want to warmly thank the Botswana government and the country’s anti-money laundering professionals who strive every day to prevent serious crime and hold offenders accountable. I know they will continue to work tirelessly to develop and enhance their capabilities. By doing so, Botswana will ensure that corruption, drug trafficking and fraud are not profitable enterprises and that terrorists cannot raise, move or use funds to carry out attacks, whether in Botswana or elsewhere. This will help make the lives of people in Botswana safer and fairer, and help create stronger, sustainable, inclusive economic growth.

*Pleyer is President of the global money laundering watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force. This article has been availed exclusively to Mmegi

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