Govt officials learn to tackle financial crime
Author: Time Reporter
Newspaper section: International Cooperation
Vientiane, Tuesday 5 th April 2011: Government officials are learning the latest techniques for investigating and prosecuting financial crimes such as money laundering and fraud. Forty officials from the Bank of the Lao PDR, Office of Supreme Prosecutor, Supreme Court, Ministry of Justice, Lao National Committee for Drug Control and Supervision, and the Customs Department are attending the financial crime investigation training course organised by the Bank of the Lao PDR and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), with support from the US Embassy to Laos.
During the five-day training course from April 4 to 8, participants will learn from US Department of the Treasury experts about money laundering, terrorism financing, sources of financial information, investigative taskforces and techniques, business operations, corruption and asset forfeiture.
They will also discuss money laundering laws, financial intelligence units in Laos, evidence, methods of proof and investigative reports. This is the second training course of its kind for Lao officials and comes amidst concerns that those involved in illicit trade are increasingly able to conceal their financial transactions.
According to official figures from UNODC, the total value of drugs trafficked around the world is estimated at US$320 billion a year. Drug trafficking through Laos has increased significantly over the past three years, with seizures of amphetamines increasing more 1,800 percent and heroin 320 percent.
The value of drugs seized in Laos last year alone was estimated at more than US$100 million. "It's very important to ensure that financial institutions can't be abused for laundering money, avoiding taxation and incorrect financial reporting,"
UN Resident Coordinator and UNODC Representative to Laos Mr Leik Boonwaat said at the opening of the training course. Financial criminals frequently operate across international borders, with crimes conducted by sophisticated international criminal gangs using a variety of financial transactions and monetary instruments including bank transfers, letters of credit, cash bulk smuggling, foreign exchange transactions, abuse of stock market trading, and even gambling in casinos or online.
Chief of the Political Section at the US Embassy to Laos Mr Thomas Daley noted that to reduce international financial crimes improved cooperation and more sophisticated investigative techniques will be required. "Preventing and prosecuting financial crimes and money laundering offences requires both domestic criminal investigations, international cooperation and information sharing among countries, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies," he said.
Director of the Bank of the Lao PDR's Anti-Money Laundering Intelligence Unit, Mr Leuane Vongphranakhorn, said the statistics on increasing drug trafficking through the country is a warning of the need for greater resources to combat crime. "The training course will enable Lao officials to improve their knowledge and ability in investigations aimed at combating criminals," he said.