The Central Bank of Samoa has moved to “ease concerns” and “address certain inaccuracies” about Samoa's Anti-Money Laundering schemes.
The Bank did this yesterday in a written response to claims carried in a story titled “Economy alarm bells” published on the front page of the Sunday Samoan, 24 January 2016.
In the story, a businessman identified as Sione expressed concerns about reports that Samoa is within the top ten countries for “illicit financial flows.” He referred to an article titled “Samoa named in corrupted trade routes” published by Island Business Magazine.
Such reports, he warned, could lead to an International Monetary Fund (I.M.F) intervention.
“My concern is that if this money laundering is going to continue to happen, very soon I.M.F. and other international organisations including most of the people we get aid from, will slam the door shut and we will go back to the 1960’s,” he said.
“That is what will happen to our economy until we are forced by I.M.F. to comply with those transnational transactions and anti-money laundering activities. We don’t have an anti-money laundering organisation here; we don’t have any such watchdog. Why?”
In its response, the Bank questioned the credibility of the report.
“The Central Bank has been liaising with the relevant stakeholders and the author(s) of the report mentioned in the Samoa Observer article, to provide more information and clarity about the source and how these country analyses were produced,” the Bank’s response reads.
“To date, the lack of transparency and accountability from the authors of this report to reveal their official sources for such information is contrary to best practices of good governance which are transparency and accountability.”
The Bank also highlighted the steps taken by the government to address concerns about money laundering, as expressed by Sione.
The Bank’s statement is published here in verbatim:
27 January 2016
A response to "Economy Alarm Bells" (pages 1 & 2, Sunday Samoan, 24th January 2016)
Please find below, a summary of facts for the information of all readers - most especially Sione - to ease concerns and address certain inaccuracies which have been printed in the Samoa Observer about Samoa's Anti-Money Laundering schemes:
1. Samoa’s Anti-Money Laundering Authority:
a) Samoa is a member of the Asia Pacific Group (APG) on Anti-Money Laundering, and has been so since May 2000. The APG is an autonomous and collaborative international organisation founded in 1997 in Bangkok, Thailand consisting of 41 members and a number of international and regional observers, including the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank (WB), OECD and UNODC.
b) In 2007 Samoa passed the following key pieces of legislation to, among other things, update the legal framework for criminalising money laundering, proceeds of crime, and operating the Samoa Financial Intelligence Unit (SFIU):
i) the Money Laundering Prevention Act 2007 (MLP Act), which repealed and replaced the Money Laundering Prevention Act 2000;
ii) the Proceeds of Crime Act 2007 (POCA);
iii) the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 2007;
iv) the Crimes Ordinance Act 2013,
v) the Counter Terrorism Act 2014 (repealed and replaced the Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism Act 2002)
vi) the Samoa Financial Intelligence Unit (SFIU) was established under the MLP Act 2007 within the Central Bank of Samoa.
vii) the SFIU is a member of the global Egmont Group of FIUs since 2011.
viii) the Samoa Transnational Crime Unit (STCU) supports investigations of money laundering and terrorist financing cases that include a transnational element.
c) In essence, the key structural foundations of an effective Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) system is well established and has been so for almost twenty years, and will continue to develop with positive achievements in compliance with international recognised standards as promulgated by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Forty recommendations in the fight against the offence of money laundering and terrorist financing, and including all predicate offences.
d) Political and institutional stability and accountability and rule of law are all present.
e) The following ministries, agencies and public authorities have a significant role to play in the implementation of Samoa’s Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism system:
i) The Money Laundering Prevention Authority (MLPA) – established under section 4 of the MLP Act is, formally, responsible for supervising financial institutions, issuing guidelines on customer due diligence, and for establishing the Samoa Financial Intelligence Unit (SFIU), which has been created as part of the CBS.
ii) The Money Laundering Prevention Task Force – established under section 5 of the MLP Act, is the advisory body and exists to strengthen co-operation among competent authorities in implementing Samoa’s AML/CFT regime.
iii) The MLP Task Force is chaired by the Governor of the Central Bank and includes as members: The Attorney General; Police Commissioner; CEO Samoa International Finance Authority (the offshore regulator); CEO Ministry for Revenue (Customs); CEO Ministry of the Prime Minister & Cabinet (Transnational Crime Unit and Immigration); CEO Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour; CEO Ministry of Finance and Director of the SFIU.
f) Among others, the above developments demonstrate the strong commitment of the Government of Samoa to the global community in combating money laundering and terrorism offences, as well as, eradicating corruption at both national and international levels.
g) As a committed member of the APG, Samoa’s AML/CFT regime underwent a thorough mutual evaluation by the APG members in November 2014 to determine Samoa’s compliance with international standards. The mission was led by the APG Secretariat and including the following member countries who were part of the evaluated mission team:
i) New Zealand
iii) Cook Islands
Whilst there are still areas where improvements are needed to strengthen Samoa’s AML/CFT regime, the overall result of the 2014 mutual evaluation has confirmed that Samoa has made significant progress in improving and strengthening its AML/CFT system to effectively counter, detect or mitigate the risks of money laundering. Furthermore, Samoa has greatly improved its compliance status with the relevant international standards since its last mutual assessment in 2006.
h) Illicit Financial Flows and development indices:
The Central Bank has been liaising with the relevant stakeholders and the author(s) of the report mentioned in the Samoa Observer article, to provide more information and clarity about the source and how these country analyses were produced.
To date, the lack of transparency and accountability from the authors of this report to reveal their official sources for such information is contrary to best practices of good governance which are transparency and accountability.
Once the official sources of information are revealed, an informed and factual response from CBS can be given.
For more information regarding any of the above information, please contact the office of the Governor of the Central Bank of Samoa.