Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries

Advanced inter-regional Workshop on "Illicit use of Money or Value Transfer Services (MVTS)" and the Regional 'FIU to FIU' Meeting 

11-15 December 2017, Beijing, China

Money or value transfer services (MVTS) represent, at times, the only financial services to transfer cash or other monetary instruments especially in particular geographic regions such as West and Central Asia. These services are described by a variety of specific terms such as hawala, hundi, and fei-chen, following a wide range of business models which are formally considered legal. Of concern is the abuse that criminals make of them by, for example, moving funds to further their illicit activities including money laundering, terrorism financing, and drug trafficking.

Understanding how MVTS works and therefore, how they can be exploited by criminals is essential to prevent its abuse. Knowledge-based investigations, intelligence sharing, suspicious transactions monitoring, reporting and sharing are important to prevent the illicit use of MVTS.

UNODC, under its Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighouring Countries (RP), has organized a series of specialized inter-regional training sessions to train experts from West and Central Asia and the People's Republic of China to identify, prevent and combat the abuse of MVTS.

The fourth such training session took place in Beijing, People's Republic of China on 11-15 December. The event, which was organized in cooperation with the Anti-money Laundering Bureau of the People's Bank of China and the support of the Global Programme against Money-Laundering, Proceeds of Crime and the Financing of Terrorism (GPML), was attended by representatives from law enforcement agencies, financial intelligence units (FIUs), anti-corruption agencies, Ministries of Finance, Ministries of Interior and police of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Republic of Kazakhstan, Islamic Republic of Pakistan,    Republic of Tajikistan, Republic of Uzbekistan and Republic of Turkmenistan.

At the opening of the event, Mr. Jeremy Milsom, Senior Programme Coordinator of the RP, noted that "...criminal enterprise can't take place if criminals, insurgents and terrorists can't move their money. Building our skills in preventing misuse of MVTS is an important practical element in our work that can help turn the tide in Afghanistan, strengthening regional security and enabling greater economic development and prosperity."

During the five-day event, the participants received training and deliberated upon a broad variety of topics including: the importance of strengthening the network of experts with specialist understanding of the abuse of MVTS and how to disrupt it, financial disruption methodology using scenarios based on the abuse of MVTS by transnational organised crime networks, sharing understanding of current threats posed by the abuse of MVTS, vulnerabilities of criminal money laundering networks and financial disruption options, identifying critical information requirements and share information standards, sensitive investigation techniques; forensics strategies and evidence handling; and the challenges of prosecuting crimes across different legal systems. Mock investigations and the study of practical cases were part of the training programme and helped the participants to increase their ability to effectively investigate the abuse of MVTS.

Unlike criminals who are not bound by jurisdictions or borders and can move freely across them, law enforcement officials are often constrained by national boundaries and lack of cross-border cooperation. In this regard, Mr. Sattar Ahmadi, a member of the Iranian delegation at the event mentioned that "We are looking towards more opportunities for inter-agency cooperation within the region on MVTS in the future".

At the end of the training, a regional FIU to FIU meeting took place during which the countries shared information on the Memorandum of Understanding currently in place among countries in the region as well those to be negotiated. Additionally, UNODC facilitated bilateral meetings between regional countries during which operational information was shared.

UNODC thanks the European Union for funding the event.