KATHMANDU: Nepal will be evaluated for international money laundering activities by the APG (Asia Pacific Group) of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) during 2022, and may be blacklisted if the government does not adequately crack down on illegal cross-border money transfers. The FATF and Asia Pacific Group (APG) for Money Laundering are currently auditing the country’s books.
If Nepal is not able to come up with a workable mechanism to identify criminal activities and bring offenders, including prominent businesspersons and politicians, under the purview of the law by the end of 2022 it faces the danger of being blacklisted by the task force.
It means, if Nepal fails to provide convenient answers and proof asked by the examiners, there is a high chance that Nepal is put on the blacklist. Past evaluations have already shown Nepal in poor light when it comes to the country controlling money laundering.
Stakeholders know that this might happen as they agree that laws are quite weak regarding monitoring money laundering. Even though there are laws, they are not implemented well, which is a major cause for concern, say officials.
The Department of Money Laundering Investigation says it has informed international agencies regarding what it is doing to curb money laundering in the country. Over 30 capacity-building programmes have been held so far in the country where representatives from both the private and public sectors have come together to combat money laundering. The APG itself has helped Nepal do this. A technical compliance and efficiency assessment report has also been sent to the APG.
However, the going is not expected to be easy, because the Money Laundering Investigation Department lacks coordination with other powerful agencies, which is international practice and considered essential to investigate money laundering. Though the law states that Nepal Rastra Bank should coordinate with other agencies and provide information to the department about suspicious financial transactions, the implementation of this law is weak.
The technical compliance report includes things related to laws. Since Nepal has laws regarding money laundering, there are chances that the country will not be blacklisted. But, when it comes to efficiency and implementation, Nepal is very weak and that might be an issue. But, Nepal has submitted over 400 documents to the APG.
Officials at the department say the country needs to be proactive to amend laws regularly. And since Nepal is already weak in terms of information collection, analysis and investigation of financial crimes, Nepal has a lot of challenges.
Indeed, although everyone agrees that corruption and tax evasion are rampant in Nepal, there is no record of prominent persons being investigated for it. However, since the APG will be investigating on its own next year, the department has been forced to conduct its own secret probes.
Prem Prasad Bhattarai, director general at the department, says he cannot speak about the investigations at the moment but according to sources, well known Nepalis, including a businessman who is expanding outside Nepal, another tycoon who created an international business network after the 2006 movement, a prominent trader accused of gold smuggling and an industrialist who suddenly switched to tourism, are under investigation.