A meeting of the FATF Africa and Middle East Joint Group (FATF AME JG) was held from January 11-12, 2018 in St. Petersburg with active participation of Rosfinmonitoring. The decision to hold the meeting in Russia was taken by the FATF Plenary in Buenos Aires in November 2017 in response to our invitation, issued, inter alia, out of desire to ensure the widest possible involvement of all interested delegations (when organizing previous meetings, there were problems with visas for representatives of certain countries).
A list of participants included experts from Iraq, Italy, Russia, Syria, USA, Tunisia, France, Ethiopia and South Africa, as well as representatives of the Secretariats of the FATF and FATF-style regional bodies in North Africa and the Middle East (MENAFATF) and in Eastern and Southern Africa (ESAAMLG).
The meeting agenda included face-to-face discussions of the reports by the countries from the above region put on the FATF grey list (Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia and Ethiopia), on progress made in addressing the previously identified strategic shortcomings in their AML/CFT regimes, followed by a closed discussion that did not include representatives of the reporting countries.
As they presented their reports, experts from Tunisia and Ethiopia demonstrated a profound understanding of the outstanding issues and ways to address them. The work is progressing ahead of schedule agreed upon in the action plan, a fact that, according to the FATF, bodes well for the countries' removal from the follow-up process.
At the request of the Ethiopian delegation, participants agreed to raise at the upcoming FATF Plenary meeting the issue of a possible change in the name of the section on the FATF website featuring countries from the FATF "black" and "grey" lists. According to those present, the "High-risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions" designation incorrectly reflects the assessment ratings of the countries that not only actively cooperate with the FATF, but whose ratings are often higher than those awarded to countries not placed on an enhanced follow-up process.
After examining the materials made available to the FATF on progress achieved by Yemen, participants agreed to leave the country's current status unchanged and wait for the security situation in the country to improve sufficiently to allow the sending there of a monitoring mission, which is a prerequisite for removal from the grey list.
Much of the participants' attention was devoted to the discussion of the Syrian and Iraqi dossiers, including the possibility of sending a similar mission to Damascus and Baghdad. Russian experts endorsed the reports submitted by these countries' delegations, having previously guided the Syrians on all issues of possible concern. After a heated discussion, both sides demonstrated a high level of readiness to receive the mission in the second half of 2018. The final decision will be taken by the FATF Plenary in Paris in late February 2018.
Importantly, ever since Syria was placed on the FATF grey list in 2010, Russia has been making consistent efforts to involve this country in a constructive dialogue with the FATF and provided it with the necessary technical assistance, including organizing a visit to Damascus. It is gratifying to see Syria's engagement with the FATF to involve representatives of not only the financial intelligence unit but also other sector-specific bodies.
The meeting ended with the presentation of the Group’s meeting schedule for 2018. The next meeting, whose venue is yet to be decided, will be held in the second half of May 2018.