Is FATF a tool reflecting US, UK hypocrisy?

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Waqas Shabbir |

United Kingdom was an ally of the US when both countries put forward the motion to put Pakistan on the terror watch-list for its failure to comply with the global anti-money laundering and terror financing requirements. Given the critical nature of the issue and its importance to Pakistan’s economic survival, it could potentially hurt all the efforts thus far to revive the economy. But the money laundering policies of the countries enticing the motion are questionable.

Do Trump and the UK both adhere by the anti-money laundering policies? Why is London called the dirty money capital? The report by Transparency International on the London property market indicates that there is no data available on the real owners of more than half of the 44,022 land titles owned by overseas companies in London. 91 percent of these properties were bought via secrecy jurisdictions [such as those named in the Panama and Paradise Papers].

Moreover, 75 percent of the land titles were identified as being linked to Politically Exposed Persons (PEPS) and are owned by companies based in Panama or the British Virgin Islands.

The UK, in its own national interest, allowed alleged corruption money into the country and awarded people nationalities by crafting policies to revive its ailing economy. Why did it take so long to review its anti-money laundering polices?

Similarly, Deutsche Banks analysis of the UK’s balance sheet in 2015 showed that there exists a strong evidence which suggests that a bigger chunk of the UK’s £133bn of hidden capital inflows is related to Russia. The Russian central bank has attributed significant portions of Russian capital outflows to illegal activities. To consolidate this point, numerous other in-depth studies have also linked the criminal activity as an important driver of hidden capital flows.

Interestingly, the UK even started a scheme where eight years ago in return for investing £2m, the golden visa was offered to foreign investors coming to the UK. According to Transparency International, 60 percent of the 3,048 visas that were granted under this scheme were granted to Russian and Chinese citizens, before the scheme was abolished.

Did UK regulators and authorities inquire a former governor of one of Nigeria’s oil-producing states about utilizing a considerable chunk of £160 million of the stolen money on London properties? He was later sentenced to 13-years in prison but why was he able to launder such big sums to the UK in the first place?

Read more: Pakistan will be on FATF Grey List – Confirmed

The reports also suggests that the total money laundered through the UK could be anything up to £90bn and most of this money comes from assets plundered from the former Soviet bloc countries and African states. Similarly, a lot of money is plundered into the UK property market from Asian and Arab countries under the nose of UK authorities.

The UK itself suffered significant intelligence gaps and authorities failed to effectively control the corruption money into the country, but it dares question countries like Pakistan with weak governance system to comply with money laundering laws.

India and Afghanistan have upped their efforts to convince the international community of Pakistan’s role in assisting militants in their respective countries.

Trump denounces Pakistan’s failure on dealing with money-laundering, but himself desperately tries to defy investigations against money-laundering.

London is declared a haven for the dirty money market. The report by Leicestershire MP Keith Vaz concluded that a GBP 100 billion was being laundered through the UK every year and the UK “laid out a welcome mat” for criminals. Under the new money laundering legislation, the Criminal Finances Bill was passed last year to target this flow of illegal money. Efforts are being made to break the secrecy surrounding the foreign ownership of the properties.

Only at the start of this year, the UK launched a new anti-money laundering watchdog which will work with all of the UK’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML) supervisors to help improve standards, and with law enforcement to enforce anti-money laundering rules as part of the UK government’s wider plans to make Britain more hostile to criminal concealing their ill-gotten wealth.

The UK despite being so complacent in controlling the flow of illegal money into its jurisdiction is depicting blatant hypocrisy with respect to Pakistan.

Read more: US to hold Islamabad accountable for its actions: White House

Across the Atlantic, its apparently lunatic ally, Donald Trump, has accused Pakistan and another FATF included country North Korea of having accounts in Macao used for money laundering in support of terrorism. But the fact that not many people know is that Donald Trump has a history of suspicious and dubious financial dealings including money laundering.

Heather Digby Parton writing for Salon said the list of dirty dealings in Trump’s foreign businesses is lengthy. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found that between 2012 and 2013, FBI spied on a high level criminal Russian money-laundering ring which was working in unit 63A of Trump tower situated only three floors below Mr. Trump’s penthouse.

The US and UK continue pestering Pakistani authorities over inaction against the terrorist financing and use Pakistan’s precarious position to pressurize it with derogatory and insulting public statements.

Following the major investigations, more than 30 people were indicted including alleged mafia boss Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov who was well connected with the business world as well as the criminal world overseas, in Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and other countries.

Trump’s Taj Mahal casino broke the anti-money laundering rules 106 times in the early 1990’s. Russian mobsters and others used Trump’s Taj Mahal casino for money laundering repeatedly. The casino settled the charge by paying $10 million civil penalties for violations for money laundering in the 1998 settlement.

Money continues to move into Trump-branded properties from obscured sources like anonymous LLCs and shell companies, according to USA Today. The allegations of Russian money tied up with Trump properties and assets is gaining heat. It puts a big question mark on the legitimacy of the Trump Business Empire and role of dark money can’t be ruled out as a major resource behind his rise as a president.

Read more: Pakistan gets cozy to China and Russia as US play blames…

Pakistan notified the UK authorities regarding the money laundering and alleged criminal activities of MQM chief Altaf Hussain repeatedly. Scotland Yard raided the party offices and home of the MQM leader and seized cash worth £167,525.92 and £289,785.32 respectively. The question is: where did the money come from? And why did Scotland Yard fail to prove his crimes and handed him a clean chit after failing to prove that the money seized was the proceeds of crime or was intended for use in unlawful conduct.

After his arrest on June 3, 2014, Scotland Yard dropped the charges on October 13, 2016. Last year, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) registered a money-laundering case against Altaf and his party leaders for illegal transfer and misuse of funds received by the party’s charity wing, Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation (KKF).

Almost a year after British investigators dropped the charges, business person Sarfraz Marchant has provided fresh evidence related to money laundering to Scotland Yard against Altaf Hussain. FIA also registered a case against pertaining to terror financing and money laundering. So far there has been no action from the UK authorities and investigations are ongoing. FIA has approached UK authorities over data of financial transactions.

Across the Atlantic, its apparently lunatic ally, Donald Trump, has accused Pakistan and another FATF included country North Korea of having accounts in Macao used for money laundering in support of terrorism.

The US and UK continue pestering Pakistani authorities over inaction against the terrorist financing and use Pakistan’s precarious position to pressurize it with derogatory and insulting public statements. But, when Pakistan demands to hand over alleged terrorists for committing crimes on Pakistan’s soil, it refutes the demand citing lack of evidence.

Trump laments Pakistan on the apparent behest of India for its inability to implement anti-money laundering and counterterrorism laws. It questions Pakistan’s intent to uproot terrorism-related activities from its soil. India and Afghanistan have upped their efforts to convince the international community of Pakistan’s role in assisting militants in their respective countries.

Read more: No respite in US aggression against Pakistan

Trump denounces Pakistan’s failure on dealing with money-laundering, but himself desperately tries to defy investigations against money-laundering. The UK, in its own national interest, allowed alleged corruption money into the country and awarded people nationalities by crafting policies to revive its ailing economy. Why did it take so long to review its anti-money laundering polices?

This highlights the double standards and hypocrisy of these nations. Had Altaf Hussian put this misery on the people of the UK from Pakistani soil, would Pakistan reject claims backed by evidence? FATF is a tool to put Pakistan under pressure aiming to sabotage Pakistan and China’s developing economic cooperation using Indian propaganda against Pakistan.

Waqas Shabbir is a Derby Business School graduate in Finance, currently working as a freelance writer. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect GVS editorial policy.

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Is FATF a tool reflecting US, UK hypocrisy?

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