FATF, Interpol Launch New Forum To Intensify Global Asset Recovery

September 20, 2022
The two agencies have launched a new forum that will coordinate cross-border tracing, seizure and confiscation of criminal assets, with a focus on cyber-enabled financial crime.

The two agencies have launched a new forum that will coordinate cross-border tracing, seizure and confiscation of criminal assets, with a focus on cyber-enabled financial crime.

Interpol and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) are moving towards a closer relationship in the shared fight against financial crime, as they seek to network more effectively across multiple jurisdictions.

Held in Singapore, the inaugural FATF-Interpol Roundtable Engagement (FIRE) brought together 150 financial crime fighters to focus on enhancing operational cooperation and information sharing between public agencies and the private sector.

The attendees included officials from law enforcement agencies, financial intelligence units, asset recovery offices, prosecutors, policymakers, international organisations and private-sector industry leaders.

“Increasing the visibility and priority of asset recovery at national level sets the tone for all stakeholders, sending a clear signal that we are acting to cripple organised crime syndicates,” said FATF president T Raja Kumar.

"By ambitiously pursuing every solution, every piece of actionable data, we will bring these illicit flows out of the dark and back to the legitimate economy."

Participants agreed that a stronger understanding of the global financial crime landscape, especially in relation to cyber-enabled financial crime, is central to the fight against illicit flows.

In 2020, for example, the UN Commission for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimated that Africa loses about $88bn every year to illicit capital flight, equivalent to 3.7 percent of the continent’s GDP.

In a statement, FATF noted that stolen assets are often moved out of their country of origin quickly and are channelled to or through multiple other countries.

Asset recovery is, therefore, a complex process that requires speed, technical resources and international cooperation.

“The magnitude of illicit profits, and the velocity at which billions are moving across borders, is deeply worrying,” said Jurgen Stock, secretary-general of Interpol.

“Organised crime groups are undermining global financial systems and inflicting huge losses on businesses and individuals alike.

“We must do more to deliver the significant operational impact that is needed today."

Delegates welcomed the initiative by FATF and Interpol to strengthen international law enforcement and judicial networks that work on asset recovery.

The forum also endorsed new recovery tools such as the Anti-Money Laundering Rapid Response Protocol (ARRP), a global stop-payment mechanism currently being piloted by Interpol.

The ARRP was born out of operation “HAECHI”, an Interpol study of cyber-enabled financial crime conducted between 2020 and 2021.

HAECHI targeted five types of online fraud: investment fraud; romance scams; online sextortion; voice phishing; and money laundering associated with illegal online gambling.

It found that transnational organised crime groups exploit the borderless nature of the internet to extract millions from victims before funnelling the illicit cash to bank accounts in multiple jurisdictions.

In addition, HAECHI detailed that online scams are evolving at the “speed of light”, and are becoming increasingly sophisticated in scope and complexity.

After HAECHI, a follow-up action known as HAECHI-II led Interpol to deploy and pilot the ARRP.

As a global stop-payment mechanism, the ARRP enables more member countries to submit and handle requests to follow, intercept or provisionally freeze the illegal proceeds of crime.

Interpol has said the ARRP has so far proved critical to successfully intercepting substantial amounts of illicit funds in several cases during the pilot.

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