Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries

UNODC supports West and Central Asia fighting illicit financial flows

Almaty, Kazakhstan 3-5 April 2018

Illicit financial flows make national borders increasingly irrelevant. Funds are moved across jurisdictions within seconds at the click of a button and technological developments make these transactions easier, faster and difficult to trace. The West and Central Asia region is particularly affected due to the immense profits generated by the drug economy fueled by Afghan opiates, trafficked through different routes. Drug trafficking and related crimes are transnational security threats for the entire region and due to their negative impact on the social and security environment those threats do require a comprehensive approach by Governments and the international community, said H.E. Traian Laurentiu Hristea, Ambassador of the European Union in Kazakstan, in his closing remarks to the regional workshop on Financial Disruption of Illicit Financial Flows Associated with Transnational Organized Crime . A concerted and harmonized action at regional and inter-regional level is therefore critical to counter this phenomenon.

UNODC, through its Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighboring Countries, under Sub-Programme 2 on International/regional Cooperation in Legal Matters, promotes coordinated responses to these threats by strengthening cooperation among practitioners in West and Central Asia. In this context a regional workshop on Financial Disruption of Illicit Financial Flows Associated with Transnational Organized Crime was organized in Almaty, Kazakhstan from 3 to 5 April 2018, jointly with the EU Action Against Drugs and Organised Crime (EU-Act), with the support of the Global Programme against Money Laundering, Proceeds of Crime and the Financing of Terrorism (GPML), the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre for Combating Illicit Trafficking of Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and their Precursors (CARICC), the Eurasian Group (EAG)  and experts from the Polish and Lithuanian FIU and ABN AMRO Bank. More than 30 experts on anti-money laundering and financial investigation from law enforcement agencies, FIUs, prosecuting authorities and international organizations attended the event. Participating countries included I.R. Afghanistan, I.R. Iran, Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, I.R. Pakistan, Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Republic of Uzbekistan, as well as CARICC, EAG, UNODC, and EU-Act.

During the three day workshop, participants identified gaps in their respective legislations and shared best practices and information about cases involving financial investigations, arrest of individuals and seizures of drugs and money that took place since last regional workshop on this subject, in September 2017. Two of the participating countries reported also the results of a joint operation, supported by the Regional Programme, which led to the dismantling of a criminal ring in Central Asia as well as to the seizure of a significant quantity of heroin.

The workshop gave participants the opportunity to discuss, a large number of topics including: the risks connected to the abuse of Money and Value Transfer Services (MVTS), such as hawala, Western Union, and KIWI; including of unwitting money service providers; contactless payments to purchase drugs; trade based money laundering (TBML); the role of the financial industry in disrupting financial crimes; and, the importance of public-private partnership.

Additionally, three table-top exercises on financial investigations related to drug trafficking and anti-money laundering were facilitated by the experts and gave participants a realistic grasp of the importance of cooperation and the challenges therewith.

Furthermore, in the margins of the training workshop an FIU to FIU meeting took place. Participants from FIUs shared challenges and achievements in terms of exchanging information on suspicious financial transactions since the latest FIU to FIU meeting. Updates on the most recent bilateral MoU on AML/CFT signed were also provided.

Participants expressed their appreciation to UNODC for the assistance provided through the Regional Programme, which has had a direct and concrete impact, inter alia, on their capacity to share information and coordinate operations, reducing significantly the time needed to process and provide information on suspicious financial transactions (SFTs), in some cases from 120 to 15 days.

The Regional Programme was also thanked by CARICC for its contribution and support to organize the first expert group meeting of the recently launched CARICC regional programme, which took place in Almaty on 6 April 2018.

UNODC thanks the European Union for funding the event.