Botswana has assured the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) of its commitment to the global fight against the concomitant troubles of money laundering and terrorist financing.
To this end, Botswana is working with technical assistance providers including Her Majesty’s Treasury (UK), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the US Treasury and the European Union (EU) to improve its Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) and the proliferation of arms of mass destruction (CPF) system holistically.
This was said by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Thapelo Matsheka, briefing Parliament on Friday.
He said work will begin with all technical assistance providers including the EU to ensure compliance with the relevant regulations.
“The Botswana government takes the blacklisting by the EU seriously as it has a high potential to tarnish the image of the country, negatively affect the fundamentals of its economy and damage its profile internationally,” said Matsheka.
He further confirmed the government has taken several actions in response to the blacklisting decision. He said apart from issuing a press statement explaining the EU Commission listing, the government sent a verbal note to the EU, followed by an official paper stating the Botswana government’s position. Dr Matsheka stated that the then Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation, Dr Unity Dow wrote to all her EU counterparts appealing to them to reconsider the decision. Dr Matsheka further said he wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia and Minister of Finance, in his capacity as the President of the European Council. He said the Ambassadors of the EU Member States were briefed on Botswana’s position and requested to communicate to their respective capitals the information provided to them.
“The action plan states that Botswana should assess the risks associated with legal persons, arrangements and non-profit organisations and develop and implement a risk-based comprehensive national AML/CFT strategy; as well as to develop and implement risk-based AML/CFT supervisory manuals,” he said.
He went on to highlight that in relation to effectiveness compliance, the FATF has extended timelines from December 2020 to 2021 on three action items, adding that this was prompted by the disruptions in the implementation of remedial measures as a result of COVID-19. With regards to the other three action items with expired timelines, he explained the February assessment by ICRG indicates a marked improvement as some of the sub-action items have been assessed as largely addressed.
“We are hopeful that feedback on the assessment of the report the country submitted to ICRG on July 31st 2020 will be positive,” he stated.
Dr Matsheka further said that on May 7, 2020, the European Commission published a new list of high-risk third countries, including Botswana, said to have strategic deficiencies in their AML and CFT systems.
He noted that the listing obliges all EU member countries to instruct their financial institutions and other designated non-financial businesses and professions to apply enhanced due diligence when dealing with financial transactions involving Botswana. He also stated that on 19th June 2020, the EU published in the Official Journal of the European Union the decision to blacklist Botswana and the other countries.
He said the regulation was to enter into force within 20 days after its publication, explaining that this means the blacklisting has already been effected. He said this decision was communicated to Botswana on 23rd June 2020.
“The main role of the Financial Intelligence Agency is to analyse and disseminate financial information to law enforcement agencies and comparable bodies for combatting of money laundering terrorist and proliferation financing,” he said.