PM downplays Samoa's blacklisting

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has downplayed the European Union’s (EU) decision to add Samoa to its anti money laundering blacklist, saying the move is an attempt to undermine the work of the Samoa International Finance Authority (SIFA).

Speaking during his weekly media conference, Tuilaepa said he doesn’t understand why the EU has blacklisted Samoa when the nation is in the good books of other organisations like Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Tuilaepa made the point when his opinion was sought on the latest blacklisting of Samoa, making it one of 23 countries recognised as "posing a threat" to others.

When the list was revealed last month, the European Commission announced that Samoa had been added to the list because of its controls against "terrorism financing" and "money laundering".

Samoa is among 23 countries on the list including Saudi Arabia and Panama. Others include Afghanistan, American Samoa, the Bahamas, Botswana, North Korea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guam, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, US Virgin Islands and Yemen.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa said the EU wants to shut SIFA.

“The EU is not really fond of our taxes strategies to attract businesses from overseas to invest in Samoa, and therefore they want to shut down SIFA,” Tuilaepa said.

The Samoa International Finance Authority monitors and supervises the conduct of international financial services provided within Samoa.

“They claim Samoa is not in compliance with EU policies,” he said, adding that this is “ridiculous.”

“How could we close it (SIFA) down when we get up to $40 million from it. SIFA also funds some of our sporting teams and other government projects.”

According to Tuilaepa, during a meeting with the European Union Commissioner, Neven Mimica, last month, the issue was on the agenda.

He said Mr. Mimica assured the Samoan Government they would look into the matter.

“But what we were trying to determine is why the EU are after the small island nations and yet when we compare our strategies on taxes, all the other countries are doing the same.”

According to a statement from the EU,  the blacklist is to “protect the integrity of the EU financial system from financial flows involving countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing regimes.”

The list, expanded in 2019 to 23 countries from 16, is part of a broader push in Brussels to crack down on dirty money in the wake of money laundering scandals that roiled some of Europe’s biggest banks and exposed serious shortcoming in the bloc’s financial regulations.

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