Suspending Suspicious Transactions (World Bank Studies)
Seizure and confiscation of proceeds of crime, and funds intended to finance terrorism, are key objectives of the global initiative to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. The timely identification and immobilization of such funds are critical to permit the action necessary to prevent the flight of illicit assets beyond the reach of national law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities.
Among the measures and tools that have been developed is the power for Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) to order the postponement of transactions involving funds suspected of being related to money laundering or terrorism financing. This power has been given to a significant number of FIUs, but is not a mandatory element of the international anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing standards.
The World Bank and the Egmont Group undertook a joint study to gather information about the legal basis of this power and its practical application as well as the frequency and modalities of its use. Detailed findings of this study are reported in this booklet, together with a series of recommendations that address anomalies, or perceived weaknesses, in the structure and scope of this power, and the manner in which it is used by FIUs.
In this regard it is worth mentioning some of the key recommendations flowing from the study that urge national authorities to:
Provide an explicit legal basis for the FIU’s power to postpone suspicious transactions. Identify the minimum requisite conditions for the FIU’s exercise of this power. Ensure that the legal provision for this power mandates a reasonable maximum duration for the FIU postponement order. Introduce legal provisions to require the FIU to issue a written postponement order, while allowing for an oral order in urgent cases. Develop and implement effective mechanisms for coordination of the activities of reporting entities and public authorities involved in the postponement of transactions and follow-on interventions that may be triggered by the postponement.
The report’s findings and recommendations are intended to provide practical advice to those countries that may wish to review, upgrade or strengthen their FIU’s capacities to use this power. It will also be an invaluable source of information and guidance to policy makers, FIUs, as well as law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities of countries that may be considering the introduction of this power.
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