IMF to Battle Diamond and Gold Money Laundering in Africa

author: Edahn Golan
 
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) launched a technical assistance project to help countries where precious mineral exports account for a high share of GDP or total exports and formal financial systems are underdeveloped. The two stage $0.5 million project aims to close illicit trading loopholes in 16 sub-Sahara countries.

The IMF project will help the 16 countries that produce and deal in diamonds, gold, and precious minerals strengthen their defenses against money laundering, smuggling, and terrorist financing, the organization announced last week.

According to the IMF, Africa produces an estimated $19 billion in gold per year and $6 billion in diamonds. “But an unknown amount is laundered or siphoned each year for criminal purposes,” it warned.

“The trade in precious minerals has been linked to illicit financial flows, corruption, drug trafficking, arms smuggling and the financing of terrorism,” explained Emmanuel Mathias, an IMF senior financial sector expert.

“Better regulation and oversight of the precious minerals sector will not only help these countries combat these phenomena, but also boost revenues and improve their fiscal situation.”

The project is funded by $500,000 from the IMF’s anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) Topical Trust Fund (TTF) that was launched early last year as the first in a series of topical trust funds at the Fund.

Twelve countries are providing financial support for the TTF. Through this, a total of $31 million will be spent on improving AML/CFT systems around the globe over the next five years.

The technical assistance will be conducted in two stages. For the first stage, two awareness-raising regional workshops are being organized in Tunis, Tunisia, featuring representatives from the four relevant government departments (financial intelligence, customs, finance and mining) of each country. The first workshop was held on March 8–12 for eight French-speaking countries. The second is planned for June 14–18, with participants from eight English-speaking countries.

For the second stage, the project will help interested countries further develop their national strategies for improving AML/CFT controls related to precious minerals.

“By the third quarter of 2010, we expect countries to have prepared national strategies,” Mathias said. “We then expect a number of countries to engage in longer term technical assistance relationships with the IMF or with other relevant organizations.”

A number of countries have faced issues such as corruption, internal and regional conflicts, arms smuggling and other similar problems, he added.

“Such issues often prey on and are fueled by the unregulated trade in rough diamonds and gold,” Mathias said. “We have to consider that for some of these countries, diamonds or gold constitute their main economic resources. Improving the regulation and transparency of the precious minerals sector supports our core mandate of strengthening macroeconomic stability.”

Dealers in precious stones and metals are a relatively recent addition to the list of designated professions to be incorporated into a country’s AML/CFT regime, as designated by the IMF’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

The FATF standard calls for countries to require precious metals and stone dealers to identify the customer in any cash transaction equal to or above $/€15,000. In addition, dealers should be prohibited from completing a transaction if they are unable to identify and verify the client’s identity. They have to maintain records on transactions for at least five years, and suspicious transactions should be reported to the national financial intelligence unit.

The primary objective of implementing an AML/CFT framework is to detect and deter the proceeds of predicate crimes such as fraud, drug trafficking, arms smuggling or corruption.

“The lack of transparency of transactions in the precious metals and stones sector has been identified as a major obstacle to tax collection,” said Matthew Byrne, an IMF Senior Counsel. “The implementation of the FATF standard enhances the transparency of transactions and should be beneficial to the general supervision of dealers in precious stones and metals, including for tax audit.”

Courtesy of IDEX

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