New Zealand is signed up to several international mechanisms that aim to reduce corruption across the world. Two of the most important are the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
Taking NZ to task on financial action
Sometime this month we can expect the FATF anti money laundering (AML) assessment report on New Zealand to be published. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog. It sets international standards that aim to prevent these illegal activities and the harm they cause to society.
New Zealand is a member of FATF. All member states are periodically evaluated for compliance with FATF technical recommendations. New Zealand’s current ‘Mutual Evaluation’ undertaken jointly by the FATF and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering started in 2019 and included a site visit just before lockdown last year.
At a meeting of the FATF Plenary in February 2021, the New Zealand mutual evaluation joint assessment was discussed. This was the FATF’s first ever virtual discussion of a mutual evaluation.
The Plenary concluded that:
New Zealand’s measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing are delivering good results, but the country needs to focus more on improving the availability of beneficial ownership information, strengthening supervision and implementation of targeted financial sanctions. New Zealand has a good understanding of the risks it faces and is achieving substantial results in its money laundering and terrorist financing investigations and prosecutions and use of financial intelligence. The country is particularly effective in the confiscation of criminal proceeds and its international cooperation with its international partners.
Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) is now waiting to see the final report.
TINZ has advocated for greater transparency of beneficial ownership information, and had expected some progress on a Cabinet decision which MBIE had reportedly indicated might be in the second quarter of 2020.
A register of beneficial ownership is a hot topic internationally and delegates at the February FATF plenary also explored potential amendments to further strengthen the FATF requirements on beneficial ownership. They recorded that:
“The FATF’s mutual evaluations, as well as high-profile examples of abuse, demonstrate that criminals are still able to hide their illicit assets behind anonymous or complex legal structures.”
Cooking with UNGASS – Strengthening the UN agenda on anti-corruption
On 2-4 June 2021 the United Nations Member States are holding the first-ever UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) focused on corruption. This session aims to move the global anti-corruption agenda forward from where it stood 15-20 years ago when the United Nations Convention against Corruption was signed.
As Delia Ferreira Robiero, Chair of Transparency International, says the UNGASS 2021 offers great promise but also bears a heavy responsibility. The entire world will be scrutinising the UNGASS Political Declaration (which is currently being negotiated by States in Vienna) and the concrete steps the international community will take.
You can watch Delia’s speech on UNGASS, to an intersessional meeting, at this link. Transparency International will be attending the assembly, as will the UNCAC Coalition of which TINZ is a member. TINZ has applied for accreditation to attend this Special Session.