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EU Fight against money laundering and terrorist financing

MD Staff

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The European Commission is today adopting a Communication and four reports that will support European and national authorities in better addressing money laundering and terrorist financing risks. The Juncker Commission put strong EU rules in place with thefourth and the fifth Anti-Money laundering directives and reinforced the supervisory role of the European Banking Authority. The reports stress the need for their full implementation while underlining that a number of structural shortcomings in the implementation of the Union’s anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing rules still need to be addressed. Today’s package will serve as a basis for future policy choices on how to further strengthen the EU anti-money laundering framework.

Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President said: “We must close off all opportunities for criminals and terrorists to abuse our financial system and threaten the security of Europeans. There are some very concrete improvements which can be made quickly at operational level. The Commission will continue to support Member States in this, whilst also reflecting on how to address the remaining structural challenges.”

Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: “A credible framework for preventing and fighting money laundering and terrorist financing is essential to maintain the integrity of the European financial system and reduce risks to financial stability. Yet, today’s analysis gives more proof that our strong AML rules have not been equally applied in all banks and all EU countries. So we have a structural problem in the Union’s capacity to prevent that the financial system is used for illegitimate purposes. This problem has to be addressed and solved sooner rather than later.”

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: “We have stringent anti-money laundering rules at EU level, but we need all Member States to implement these rules on the ground. We don’t want to see any weak link point in the EU that criminals could exploit. The recent scandals have shown that Member States should treat this as a matter of urgency.”

The Towards a better implementation of the EU’s anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism framework Communication gives an overview of the four reports published today: the supranational risk assessment report provides an update of sectorial risks associated with money laundering and terrorist financing. The assessment of recent high-profile money laundering cases in the financial sector, the Financial Intelligence Units and the interconnection of central bank account registries’ reports analyse the shortcomings in current anti-money laundering supervision and cooperation, and identifies ways to address them.

Assessment of money laundering risks across the internal market

The supranational risk assessment report is a tool to help Member States identify and address money laundering and terrorist financing risks. It is adopted every two years by the Commission since 2017.

The report shows that most recommendations of the first supranational risk assessment have been implemented by the various actors. However, some horizontal vulnerabilities remain, particularly with regard to anonymous products, the identification of beneficial owners and new unregulated products such as virtual assets. Some of these will be addressed by the upcoming transposition of the fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive. The report also recalls that Member States still have to fully transpose the fourth Anti-money laundering directive. The Commission calls upon Member States to implement the directive fully and follow the recommendations of this report. This would improve cooperation between supervisors, raise awareness among obliged entities and provide further guidance on beneficial ownership identification.

Assessment and lessons from recent money laundering cases

Following a number of exchanges with the European Parliament and a request from the Council in December 2018, the European Commission has analysed ten recent publicly known cases of money laundering in EU banks to provide an analysis of some of the current shortcomings and outline a possible way forward.

While not being exhaustive, the report shows that:

Banks, in a number of the cases analysed, did not respect effectively or sometimes did not comply at all with anti-money laundering requirements. They lacked the right internal mechanisms to prevent money laundering and did not align their anti-money laundering/counter terrorism financing policies when they had risky business models. The findings also highlighted a lack of coordination between such policies, either at the level of individual entities or at group level.

National authorities responded with significant differences in terms of the timeliness and effectiveness of their supervisory actions. There were major divergences in terms of prioritisation, resources, expertise and available tools. More particularly with respect to the supervision of a banking group, the supervisors had a tendency to rely excessively on the anti-money laundering framework of host Member States and this impinged on the effectiveness of supervisory actions in cross-border cases at EU level. In addition, the division of responsibilities led to ineffective cooperation between anti-money laundering authorities, prudential authorities, Financial Intelligence Units and law enforcement authorities.

These deficiencies point to outstanding structural issues in the implementation of EU rules, which have been addressed only in part. The regulatory and supervisory fragmentation, coupled with the diversity of tasks, powers and tools available to public authorities, create weaknesses in the implementation of EU rules. Shortcomings in anti-money laundering policies and supervision are more prominent in cross-border situations, both within the EU but also in relation to non-EU countries. While significant actions have been taken by banks and supervisors, more remains to be done. There is, for instance, a need for further harmonisation across Member States and strengthened supervision.

The need for reinforced cooperation between Financial Intelligence Units (FIU)

Financial Intelligence Units play a key role in identifying money laundering risks in each country. The EU FIU’s Platform, which is an expert group of the Commission, has greatly improved the cooperation over the last years, but the Commission has identified remaining issues:

Access by FIUs to information: due to their different status, powers, and organisation, some FIUs are not able to access and share relevant information (financial, administrative and law enforcement).

Information sharing between FIUs remains insufficient and is often too slow.

IT tools: FIUs also sometimes lack the proper IT tools to efficiently import and export information to/from the FIU.net.

Limited scope of the EU FIUs’ Platform, which cannotproduce legally-binding templates, guidelines and standards.

The report suggests some concrete changes, such as a new support mechanism, that would further improve the cooperation between Financial Intelligence Units (FIU) across the EU.

Interconnection of central bank account registries

The report on the interconnection of central bank account registries sets out a number of elements to be considered for a possible interconnection of bank account registries and data retrieval systems. The Commission suggests that such a system could possibly be a decentralised system with a common platform at EU level. To achieve the interconnection, legislative action would be required, following consultation with Member States’ governments, Financial Intelligence Units, law enforcement authorities and Asset Recovery Offices.

Next steps

Today’s reports will inform the future debate on further action in this area, including with regard to the obligations of financial institutions and the powers and tools necessary for effective supervision. The current degree of integration of the banking market will also require further work on the cross-border aspects of the anti-money laundering/terrorist financing framework. The Commission will continue to monitor closely the implementation of EU anti-money laundering rules by the Member States.

Background

Under the Juncker Commission, the EU has strengthened the anti-money laundering/ counter terrorist financing framework by adopting the fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive that had to be transposed by Member States by June 2017. The Commission is assessing the transposition of the fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive, while also working to verify that the rules are correctly implemented by Member States. The Commission has launched infringement procedures against a majority of Member States as it assessed that the communications received from the Member States did not represent a complete transposition of this Directive.

The fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive will improve the powers of Financial Intelligence Units, increase the transparency around beneficial ownership information, as well as regulate virtual currencies and pre-paid cards to better prevent terrorist financing. Member States are due to transpose the Directive into national law by January 2020.

Following the uncovering of several money laundering cases in 2018, the Commission set up in May 2018 a joint working group together with the European Supervisory Authorities and the European Central Bank. On the basis of the working group’s recommendations, the Commission issued in September 2018 a Communication on strengthening the AML and prudential frameworks and new rules to strengthen the role of the European Banking Authority. This led to the reinforcement of the anti-money laundering and terrorist financing dimension in prudential banking legislation through the adoption of the fifth Capital Requirements Directive in December 2018.

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Should Turkey and Azerbaijan Be Worried About Killed Syrian Mercenaries?

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Just a few weeks ago many analysts and observers were sceptical about reports of Turkey’s transferring units of its Syrian National Army (SNA) proxies to Nagorno Karabakh, even more so because Turkish officials denied any such claims. However, as evidence of massive casualties among the Syrian mercenaries continues to mount, there is little space left for doubt: SNA fighters have become cannon fodder in the Turkish operation in support of Azerbaijan.

The first batch of bodies of those Syrians who perished in Nagorno Karabakh counted over 50 people, according to messages and videos that went viral on opposition WhatsApp and Telegram channels. Among the dead who were delivered to Syria over Hiwar Kilis border crossing and were given a hasted burial were men from Aleppo, Idlib, Homs and other regions of Syria. Many of their relatives, like families of Muhammad Shaalan from Atareb and Kinan Ferzat from Maarat al-Nuuman, were shocked to learn about their death.

Just like the majority of the Syrians who travelled to Nagorno Karabakh,  Muhammad and Firzat were primarily motivated by lucrative rewards of up to 2,000 dollars promised by Turkey. “I came here to make money and have a better life back in Syria where the living conditions are miserable. I consider this a job, nothing else,” a member of Liwa Sultan Murad, one of the first SNA factions to deploy its fighters to the contested region, told Guardian.

The reason behind heavy casualties of the Syrian mercenaries is that they are thrown into action where the clashes are the most violent, including Jabrayil, Terter, Fizulin and Talysh. This move allows Azerbaijan to keep its military, who mainly provide air support including operating Turkey-made Bayraktar TB2 UAVs and coordinate artillery and missile strikes of the Armenian positions, out of direct contact with the enemy.

The estimates of the numbers of the Syrian mercenaries present in Nagorno Karabakh are wildly different. While initial reports put their number at 500 men, it is currently believed that the actual number may be in thousands. This data indicates that at least 10 percent of the fighters were killed during the very first days of the escalation – a serious alarm for the mercenaries as well as their Turkish backers.

These developments must ring a bell for Azerbaijan as well. The longer the conflict protracts, the higher the risk of casualties among the Azeri servicemen becomes, who have already suffered losses in Armenian retaliation strikes. Baku has managed to avoid discontent among the military as well as the civilian populace – not least thanks to the Syrian mercenaries crushed as cannon fodder – but this can not continue for long.

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Emerging Multipolarity and its consequences

Abdul Rasool Syed

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“Make America great again” a slogan that formed the nucleus of trump’s electoral campaign vividly suggests that America is no more a great country. It is, in fact, an implicit admission that U.S is gradually losing its clout in international politics and hence, its image as a sole superpower of the world has virtually tarnished. Let me rephrase this connotation; it means that the era of unipolar world is over and the world has now transitioned to a multipolarirty.

Currently, new power centers are emerging in transnational political landscape. China, Russia, India and Turkey are excessively engaged to carve a niche for them in evolving international order. Most importantly, with China and Russia’s mushrooming proximity, balance of power is now shifting from west to east. Former United States (US) Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton at her state visit to New Zealand was one of the first to observe “a shifting balance of power to a more multi-polar world as opposed to the Cold War model of a bipolar world”. This conspicuous change in multi-national political setup was also realized by Ban ki Moon, the then secretary- General of United Nations who stated at Stanford University in 2013 that we have begun to “move increasingly and irreversibly to a multi-polar world”. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, also declared at the Russia-China Conference 2016 that “international relations have entered into a conceptually new historical stage that consists in the emergence of a multi-polar world order and reflects the strengthening of new centers of economic development and power”.

These manifestations of political spin doctors have since then revealed a general acceptance of the idea of multi-polar world as a concept that is inescapable political reality in the contemporary international dynamics.   However, when it comes to the transitions and inevitability of power structures, there is a little agreement among the international states.

A much stronger resistance to forego unipolarity remains embedded in the Trump administration vision to “make America great again”. Political pundits such  as Robert Kaplan continue to question, whether there is an overlap of unipolar and multi-polar world realities; where US continues to retain the supremacy in military realm of affairs and is anticipated to remain so for a considerable future time, whereby China leads in the economic realm. Additionally nations in the former Third World are acquiring status as rising powers, notably India who have over the years with smart diplomacy have acquired global outreach to shape international agenda.

Chronologically, After World War II, the U.S. became the undisputed and unchallenged global superpower. It was the only country, equipped with nuclear warheads and was one of the few countries involved in the war that came away from it relatively unscathed at home. The U.S. underwent a meager loss of approximately 400,000 soldiers and a fractional amount of civilians in the war. The Soviet Union, meanwhile, incurred a gigantic loss of around 11 million soldiers and some 7 million to 10 million civilians. While Soviet and European cities were undergoing the process of rehabilitation, American cities flourished. It seemed clear to all that the future belonged to the United States.

But it didn’t take long for the luster of unrivaled power to tarnish. The U.S. military machine relaxed as quickly as it had mobilized, and wartime unity gave way to peacetime political debates over government spending and entitlement programs. Within five years, a bipolar world emerged: The Soviets attained an atomic bomb, and the U.S. was caught flat-footed in a war on the Korean Peninsula that ended in a stalemate. Soon thereafter, the U.S. was withdrawing from Vietnam and rioting at home. In 1971, then-President Richard Nixon predicted a world that he said would soon emerge in which the U.S. was “no longer in the position of complete pre-eminence.” Within 26 years of the end of World War II, Nixon’s prediction saw the light of the day and the U.S. had to resign to its fate.

Theoretically, multipolarity refers to a distribution of power in which more than two states have nearly equal amounts of military, cultural, financial and economic influence.

If we look at the contemporary world, we find that with the rise of like China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil, global power will spread across a wider range of countries, hence, a new world order with multipolar outlook is likely to emerge .

Realistically speaking, several revisionist powers are and will shaking up their regions. For instance, Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 – annexing Crimea, over which it has fought several wars throughout history (mainly with Turkey). In turn, Turkey is asserting its sovereignty over the eastern Mediterranean to the frustration of countries like Greece, Egypt, Cyprus and Israel. Meanwhile, India has upped its aggression in its border dispute with Pakistan as Modi began a process to revoke the autonomous status of the disputed territories of Jammu and Kashmir.

Notably, after the age of city-states and nation-states, we are now entering the age of continental politics. The most powerful countries of the 21st century (the U.S., China, Russia India, Indonesia, and Brazil) are the size of continents. They have broad economic bases and their digital economies potentially have hundreds of millions of users. Internationally, their scale requires them to seek broad spheres of influence in order to protect their security.

Here the question arises what will be the impact of growing multipolarity in the world? First of all, revisionist powers will increasingly ignite tensions. The growing assertiveness of countries like Russia, Turkey and India is the new normal. As they grow more powerful, these countries will seek to revise arrangements in order to reflect the new realities of power. Because these (continental) states seek broad spheres of influence, many places are at risk of destabilization.

Second, one of the biggest risks is the growing paranoia of the hegemon (the U.S.). The current trade war has shown how destabilizing the policy of the (financial) hegemon becomes as it feels threatened by the rise of a rival. Historically, this has been the most important source of violent conflicts. Indeed, the biggest source of uncertainty in the coming years is how the U.S. will react to the rise of China.

Third, the world order will become more ambiguous. Two developments deserve our attention. First, the growing use of shadow power will make conflict more unpredictable. With digital tools, states (and non-state actors) are manipulating each other in subtle ways. For example, Russian hackers  posed as Iranians to hit dozens of countries and Americans blamed Russia for tampering with American elections. Second, alliances will also become more ambiguous. With ever changing dynamics of world economy, new alliances, motivated by the concept of triangulation (to keep balance in relation with the US and China, the trade warriors) will form and such alliances, as predicted by spin doctors; will be less stable than the blocs, formed in 20th century.

To sum it up, before we reach a multipolar world order, we will see a period of growing uncertainty based on the rise of revisionist powers, the paranoia of the U.S. and growing ambiguity of conflict and cooperation. Moreover, the political pundits are divided in opinion that whether multi-polarity is unstable than unipolarity or bipolarity. Kenneth Waltz strongly was in favor of “bipolar order as stable”. On the other side, Karl Deutsch and David Singer saw multi-polarity as guaranteeing a greater degree of stability in an article published in 1964, “Multipolar Systems and International Stability”. Simon Reich and Richard Ned Lebow in “Goodbye Hegemony” (2014), question the belief whether a global system without a hegemon would be unstable and more war prone. However, whatever the system the world is likely to witness in the days to come, let’s hope that this should be in the best interest of humanity and it should make the lives of the inhabitants of this planet peaceful and prosperous.

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The future of strategic intelligence

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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There are currently three types of intelligence transformations, namely conceptual, technological and operational.

 In the first case, we are dealing with a new and original intelligence paradigm.

 From a mechanism based on the identification of the need for information-research-processing and analysis-dissemination-feedback, we are shifting to what some people already call “position intelligence”.

 In other words, we are coming to an information mechanism that continuously perceives data and processes it, and then spreads it permanently and continuously to those who have to use it.

While the old intelligence model was “positivist”, i.e it concerned single objective and empirical data to be included in a decision-making process that is not determined by intelligence, currently it is instead a matter of building acontinuous follow-up not of data, but of political behaviours, perceptions of reality by the enemy-opponent, as well as complex phenomena that constantly reach the intelligence matrix from different parts and areas.

While in the past intelligence was rhapsodic and temporary, à la carte of politicians, and sometimes even unsolicited and not requested, it currently becomes the stable core of political, strategic, economic and industrial decisions.

This obviously results in a new relationship between politicians and Intelligence Services.

While, in an era we have already defined as “positivist”, facts, news and the unknown novelties of the enemy-opponent counted, what currently matters is the ever more evident integration between the intelligence system and politicians.

 There is obviously a danger not to be overlooked, i.e. the danger that – without even realizing it – the Intelligence Services take on responsibilities which must be typical of elective bodies only.

 But certainly intelligence currently plays a much greater role than in the past.

Another key element of the conceptual transformation of intelligence is the use not only of highly advanced and powerful information technologies, but also of scientific paradigms which were unknown to us only a few years ago.

Just think about Artificial Intelligence, but also cloud computing, algorithm theory and Markov chains – and here we confine ourselves to the mathematics that sustains current IT and computing.

 But there is also human ethology, an extraordinary evolution of Konrad Lorenz’s animal ethology, as well as social psychology, sociological analysis and scientific depth psychology.

 A whole universe of theories that, in Kant’s words, have recently shifted from metaphysics to science.

It must certainly be used to analyse, for example, mass behaviours that seem unpredictable, as well as the psychological reactions of both the ruling classes and the crowds, and the interactions between the various group behaviours of a country.

Nothing to do with the old Habsburg Evidenzbureau, which informed the General Staff of enemy troops’ movements or of the various generals’ lovers.

We here witness a substantial union between intelligence and political decision-making or, rather, between the thought produced by intelligence and the foundations of political decision-making.

 CIA has often tried to poison Fidel Castro’s beard.

 Today, apart from the doubtful rationality of that operation, it would be a matter of using – for example – advertising, TV series, Hollywood movies, the sugar, tourist or tobacco market cycles, not to poison late Fidel’s beard, but to put the Cuban economy and decision-making system into structural crisis.

 The typical idea of Anglo-Saxon political culture –whereby, once the “tyrant” is eliminated, everything can be fine and back in place – has been largely denied by facts.

 All this obviously without being noticed, as far as the operations for disrupting a country are concerned.

 Another factor of the conceptual transformation of intelligence is speed: currently the IT networks are such as to allow data collection in real time with respect to facts and hence favour wide-ranging decisions.

 As far as technology is concerned, it is well known that both the AI networks, the new calculation structures, and the networks for listening and manipulating the enemy-opponent data are such as to allow operations which were previously not even imaginable.

At this juncture, however, there are two problems: everybody has all the same tools available and hence the danger of not “successfully completing” the operation is great, unlike when the Intelligence Services’ operations were based on the skills, role and dissimulation abilities of some operatives – or on confidential and restricted technologies.

 The other problem is intelligence manipulation: a country that thinks to be a target can spread – in ad hoc networks – manipulated news, malware, data and information which are completely false, but plausible, and can modify the whole information system of the country under attack.

 Another problem of current intelligence technologies is their distance from the “traditional” political decision-making centres.

 A politician, a Minister, a Premier must know what comes out of the intelligence system. Nevertheless, it is so specialised and sectorial that the distance between technical data processing and the “natural language” of politics is likely to make data ambiguous or unclear and of little use.

 Moreover, there is a purely conceptual factor to be noted: if we put together the analysis of financial cycles, of technology change, of public finance and of political and military systems, we must connect systems that operate relatively autonomously from each other.

 In other words, there is no “science of the whole” that can significantly connect such different sectors.

 Therefore, there is the danger of projecting the effects of one sector onto another that is only slightly influenced by it, or of believing that, possibly, if the economy goes well, also the public debt – for example -will go well.

 The room for political decision-making is therefore much wider than modern intelligence analysts believe.

Political decision-making is still made up of history, political-cultural traditions and of perceptions of reality which are shaped by many years of psychological and conceptual training.

With specific reference to operativity, once again we are dealing with radical changes.

 Years ago, there was the single “operative” who had to decide alone – or with very little support from the “Centre” – what to do on the spot and with whom to deal.

 Today, obviously, there is still the individual operative, but he/she is connected to the “Centre” in a different way and, in any case, imagines his/her role differently.

 On the level of political decision-making, intelligence is always operative, because reality is so complex and technically subtle that it no longer enables even the most experienced statesman to “follow their nose”.

The primary paradox of the issue, however, is that intelligence cannot take on political roles that imply a choice between equivalent options.

 This is inevitably the sphere of politics.

 Another factor of the operational transformation is the inevitable presence of intelligence operatives in finance, in the scientific world, in high-level business consulting, in advertising, communication and media.

 Intelligence has therefore progressively demilitarised itself and is increasingly operating in sectors that we would have previously thought to be completely alien to Intelligence Services. Instead, they are currently the central ones.

 Moreover, we are currently witnessing a particular mix of strategic intelligence, geopolitics and financial analysis.

 Why finance? Because it is the most mobile and widespread economic function.

 We are witnessing the birth of a new profession, namely currency geopolitics.

 Hence we are also witnessing the evolution of two new types of intelligence, namely market intelligence (MARKINT) and financial intelligence (FININT).

 An old and new problem is secrecy. The greater the extent to which old and new intelligence is used, the less it can keep secrecy, which is essential now as it was in the past.

 What has always been the aim of strategic intelligence? To predict phenomena starting from a given context.

Contexts, however, change quickly and the interaction between sectors is such as to change the effect of forecasts.

 The formalised techniques for analysis-decision making are manifold: intelligence data mining, “grid technologies”, knowledge creation and sharing, semantic analysis, key intelligence needs (KINS) and many others.

 All operations which are often necessary, but currently we need to highlight two factors typical of the North American intelligence culture which, unfortunately, also negatively affects the models used by U.S. allies.

 The first aspect is that, strangely enough, the same formal models are proposed for both companies and States.

 A State does not have to maximize profits, while a corporation does, at least on a level playing field with its competitors.

 A State is not a “competitor” of the others and ultimately a State has no specific “comparative advantage” but, on the contrary, some of its companies have, if this happens.

 Therefore, the overlap between business intelligence, which is currently necessary, and States’ intelligence is a conceptual bias, typical of those who believe that a State is, as Von Mises said, “the joint stock company of those who pay taxes to it”.

 For companies, it is obvious that all specific and original intelligence operations must be known to the State apparata, which may coordinate them or not, considering that they inevitably have additional data.

On the other hand, some business operations can become very useful for intelligence.

Hence a structure would be needed to put the two “lines” of operations together, and above all, a new intelligence concept is needed.

In the past, the Intelligence Services’ operations were largely defensive: to know something just before it happened, to avoid the adverse operations of a State hitting its own resources, but all with often minimal time limits.

 Now we need expressly offensive intelligence which can hit the opponents’ (commercial, economic and strategic) networks before they move and in good time.

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