Gaborone — Botswana has accepted the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) action plan and is committed to implementing it, Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr Kenneth Matambo has said.
Mr Matambo said this when addressing a joint press conference with the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security to update members of the media on progress relating to the implementation of ICRG Action Plan.
He said based on the evaluation review of Botswana which was adopted by the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group in April 2017, the country was placed under observation by the Financial Action Task Force's (FATF) ICRG from June 2017 to June 2018.
"Subsequent to all this, following the decision by FATF to list Botswana under countries with deficiencies, the ICRG presented an action plan in November 2018 with timelines indicating when Botswana should have implemented the items in the action plan in order to address the deficiencies identified by the mutual evaluation review," he said.
During the observation period, the minister said the country was expected to address technical compliance issues and pass relevant laws and demonstrate effective implementation of measures relating to the Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism and the Proliferation of Arms of Mass Destruction (AML/CFT).
For his part, Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, Mr Shaw Kgathi stressed that financial crime was a serious matter that could lead to financial instability.
"It has economic and social implications to each and every country. If not well dealt with, it can lead to financial instability. It can also affect Botswana's ability to trade," he added.
For that reason, Mr Kgathi said Botswana was committed to supporting the AML/CFT initiatives.
The director general of Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA), Dr Abraham Sethibe said Botswana was expected to address six action items in order to graduate from being monitored by the ICRG.
The first action item, he said, expected the country to conduct risk assessment with persons, legal arrangements, non-profit organisations and to develop and implement the risk based National Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism and the Proliferation of Arms of Mass Destruction (AML/CFT) strategy.
"The two concerned ministries, being Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security and Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, have appointed a consultant to conduct the risk assessment. The consultant's assignment is expected to be completed by September 2019," said Dr Sethibe.
With regard to the development of the National AML/CFT strategy, he said the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development had prepared a draft strategy with assistance of the UK Treasury, and would soon submit the strategy to cabinet for approval and was mindful of the deadline of January 2020 set by ICRG.
The second action item, Dr Sethibe said, required AML/CFT authorities to develop and implement risk-based AML/CFT supervisory manuals. For that reason, he noted that FIA, Bank of Botswana, Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, Gambling Authority and Botswana Institute of Chartered Accountants had developed their risk based supervisory manuals and started implementing supervision on a risk based approach.
"Other AML/CFT supervisors are at varying levels of development and implementation of their RBSM. This is an ongong exercise as the FATF required AML/CFT supervision to follow a risk based approach. Again, the need to complete this task by January 2020 is taken seriously," he added.
The FIA director general also expressed delight that Botswana had registered significant progress under the third action item, which relates to the use of financial intelligence.
He said FIA was required to improve and enhance the use of financial intelligence by the relevant law enforcement agencies (LEAs), adding that 'FIA and LEAs continue to capacitate relevant officers on the matters and they have adopted new strategies to cooperate and collaborate, at both strategic and operational levels.'
Under the fourth action item, which is on investigation and terrorism financing, he said the country was required to ensure that there was adequate terrorism financing investigation capacity and to operationalise the Counter-Terrorism Analysis and Fusion Agency.
He also expressed gratitude that Botswana Police Service and the Directorate of Intelligence Service have started capacitating officers on investigations relating to terrorism financing.
Recently, Dr Sethibe said the director general of the Fusion Agency was appointed and was currently putting in place measures to operatinalise the agency, adding that the country had until December 2020 to complete the action item.
Botswana, as per the fifth action item, he said, was also required to ensure the implementation, without delay, of targeted financial sanctions relating to financing of terrorist and proliferation of arms of mass destruction.
Dr Sethibe said the national counter terrorism committee, which was coordinating the implementation of UN sanctions, was operational and was to develop structures and procedures to ensure effective implementation of the sanctions.
The last action item, he said, required Botswana to operationalise the chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological weapons management authority whose mandate was coordination, supervision and monitoring of activities relating to the financing of proliferation of arms of mass destruction.
The press conference was also meant to launch the public education programme in which the two ministries intend to sensitise the public on issues of money laundering and the financing of anti-terrorism, including the proliferation of arms of mass destruction.
Source : BOPA