On September 14-18, 2020, Strasbourg hosted a hybrid plenary session of the Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL) chaired by Russia. It was the first session of its kind in the history of the Council of Europe.
The event format was chosen taking into account the need to approve the reports on the effectiveness of national AML/CFT regimes of Georgia and Slovakia. The review of these reports was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under existing procedures, this could not be done without the physical presence of at least some of the representatives of these countries, assessors, and MONEYVAL leadership, with the remaining delegations to participate via videoconferencing.
Due to the fact that Committee Chairperson Elzbieta Frankow-Jaskiewicz was ill, at least one of her two deputies had to be in attendance in order for this hybrid session to go ahead. Since Richard Walker from Guernsey declined to attend, the Second Vice President A. Petrenko (Rosfinmonitoring) was dispatched to Strasbourg and chaired all meetings.
Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric attended the official opening of the session on September 16. She delivered a welcome speech and then publicly shared her impressions of the meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe held on the same day. All attending ambassadors accredited in Strasbourg spoke in favor of the hybrid plenary session chaired by Russia. Strengthening the fight against financial crimes amid the coronavirus pandemic has been one of the priorities outlined by the Council of Europe. The determination to accomplish this task was reinforced on the last day of the MONEYVAL session by the simultaneous approval of the Russian and Polish typology projects dealing with the subjects concerning more stringent regulation of the banking and non-financial sectors during the COVID-19 crisis, as well as misuse of virtual assets in the laundering of drug proceeds.
Despite the unusual format of the plenary session, it featured an in-depth and objective review of the reports prepared by Georgia and Slovakia, which managed to avoid being added to the pool of countries marked for inclusion in the FATF ‘grey’ list (both countries have been placed on an enhanced monitoring list only within MONEYVAL framework).
The experience of this Council of Europe Committee during this unprecedented period got positive feedback from FATF and its regional groups. It is now up to the global AML/CFT community to decide whether MONEYVAL hybrid practices can be used as part of activities in the global FATF network.
The following Committee plenary session is scheduled for April 2021.