Tuesday, April 14, 2009

U.S. Department of Treasury Joins Lebanon Special Investigation Commission and Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force in Anti Money Laundering Training

April 8, 2009
Officials from the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Technical Assistance (OTA), the Lebanon Special Investigation Commission (SIC) and the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF) conducted a three day training course, March 31 – April 2, in Beirut for representatives of MENAFATF member countries.  Regional training improves the ability of countries in identifying criminal and terrorist related activity through analysis of Suspicious Transaction Reports.   The U.S Department of Treasury sponsored the training with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
MENAFATF, a regional organization based in Bahrain with 18 member countries, promotes the adoption of international standards by its members to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. It is one of eight that have been established worldwide and cooperates closely with the Financial Action Task Force, a recognized international organization created in 1989 and based in Paris, that has issued recommendations to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
Over the past two decades, in compliance with international standards, countries have created financial intelligence units (FIUs) to collect and analyze data from their respective enforcement, regulatory and financial systems where criminal activity is suspected.  The primary mission of the special units is to serve as one of the first lines of defense by identifying possible criminal and terrorist activities through analysis of suspicious transactions reported by financial institutions, and others, when money laundering, terrorist financing or other serious crimes are suspected.  Although they vary in many ways, FIUs share a common definition, which refers to their basic function: serving as a national center for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information regarding suspected money laundering and terrorist financing.
The primary conduit through which FIUs receive AML/CFT information is through the reporting of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) by financial institutions and other reporting entities located in the FIU's jurisdiction.
At the pre-investigation level, STRs can be considered as strong "leads" from the financial community that are further developed by the FIU.  STRs that indicate the strongest suspicion of criminal or terrorist activity are forwarded to national law enforcement agencies that may open investigations based on the analysis conducted by the FIU.  In support of this core function, FIUs have access to a wide range of national and international data that is used to prioritize and evaluate STRs for investigation.
Although FIU analysts use similar techniques as those in enforcement and regulatory agencies to support investigations, FIUs have recognized that the analysis of STR data requires specialized skills, techniques and tools in addition to those used for to support criminal and regulatory casework.
The training provided in the course involved analysts from FIUs across the region and focused on analytical techniques, use of existing data sources and other best practices to improve effectiveness and create a network for sharing information and cooperation in the region.

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