The Head of European Union Delegation to Ghana, Ambassador Diana Acconcia, has cleared the air regarding the Union’s blacklisting of the country due to significant deficiencies in Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorist (AML/CFT) regimes, saying, no business entity in Ghana has been caught in any money laundering activity.
The European Union (EU) in May 2020 placed Ghana on the list of countries that is seen as posing significant threat to the financial system of the Union after it failed to meet some requirements earlier in the year. But due to the global pandemic, the union suspended enforcement of the list but has confirmed it has entered into full force beginning October 1, 2020.
Following this, there were reports that EU has placed restrictions and/or bans on certain government or private transactions because the Union has found certain transactions suspicious of money laundering schemes.
But speaking to local newspaper the B&FT, Ambassador Acconcia debunked such stories and said there is no evidence of money laundering against any business in the country, adding, the country is on the list because it was found deficient in certain requirements.
“I must be clear that the European Union has not found evidence of money laundering from entities from Ghana. There is nothing of that sort. Basically, Ghana has to strengthen its financial intelligence and financial surveillance system. Ghana has put in place institutions to do that, such as the Financial Intelligence Centre.
Another issue that has been flagged is the transparency in the beneficial ownership of entities. Ghana has established beneficial ownership register and is left with facilitating access to it. Another point of concern was on non-profit organisations which sometimes are used as a cover for financing illegal activities,” she said.
She further stated that being on the list will mean businesses will be subject to enhanced scrutiny when dealing with banks and other businesses in the Union.
“The consequence of being on this list is that financial institutions in Europe will be obliged to apply what is called enhanced vigilance on the customers from Ghana.
They will have to carry out more due diligence on transactions that are presented by these clients. So there is no ban and there is no decision to close Ghanaian accounts in Europe. The only obligation that is enhanced surveillance on the accounts of entities coming from countries on this list,” she said.
The ambassador added that Ghana will be off the list if the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which is an inter-governmental body that sets the global standards for the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing, among others reviews it and takes it off its grey list.
“Ghana is on this list because it has been put on a similar list by Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body that sets the global standards for the fight against money laundering, terrorist financing etc. The European Union has decided that whichever country is on the list of FATF is also high risk. So Ghana will be taken off the list if FATF also takes it off its list.
The moment a country is put on the list, FATF has an action programme that it goes through with the country and then reviews it periodically to decide whether the country should be taken off that list or not. So the next review will be at the end of this year,” she said.
According to information published on the website of FATF, the country has made some progress in its AML/CFT regime but should work hard in: implementing a comprehensive national AML/CFT Policy based on the risks identified in the National Risk Assessment (NRA), including measures to mitigate ML/TF risks associated with the legal persons; and improving risk-based supervision, by enhancing the capacity of the regulators and the awareness of the private sector.