This week, the scales of justice were tested worldwide, as the EU Court ruled against unrestricted public access to beneficial ownership information within the economic region’s anti-money laundering (AML) framework. Meanwhile, the UAE announced plans to step up its fight against money laundering by tightening the country’s information sharing laws; and King Charles’ charity organisation could face an official probe into dubious practices in the awarding of honours to donors.
Find out more on these stories below.
Transparency activists sound alarm about EU Court of Justice decision on beneficial ownership
The Court of Justice of the European Union announced its ruling on who is permitted to access declared ultimate beneficial ownership (UBO) information on 22 November 2022. The decision reversed stipulations in the 5th European Union anti-money laundering directive (5AMLD) of 2018 which require that EU-based incorporated companies’ UBO information be made available to the entire general public, concluding that this condition is ‘invalid’.
Transparency and anti-corruption advocacy groups rounded on the court’s decision, which they warn has set back progress made on the EU’s anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) legal apparatus generally, particularly the stipulations of 5AMLD.
The Tax Justice Network’s (TJN) response to the ruling was spearheaded by lead researcher, Moran Harari, who said that “this double standard of shielding the rich and powerful from public transparency and accountability is exactly what enables money laundering and tax abuse.”
Meanwhile, Transparency International issued a statement on the ruling in which illicit financial flows expert, Maíra Martini, stated that “access to beneficial ownership data is vital to identifying– and stopping– corruption and dirty money… At a time when the need to track down dirty money is so plainly apparent, the court’s decision takes us back years.”
The full EU Court of Justice decision can be viewed here.
Read more on this story at OCCRP.
UAE regulator says plans to strengthen information sharing laws will bolster AML/CFT framework
The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Public-Private Partnership Sub-Committee (PPPSC) published its draft report, the first such paper since being founded in August 2021 by the National Committee for Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism and Financing of illegal organisations (UAE NAMLCFTC), on 22 November 2022.
The ground-breaking report by the PPPSC, which is run by the also recently established Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing (EO AML/CTF), recommended the implementation of a “regulatory approach that allows the formal sharing of strategic information and intelligence between the public and private sectors, with consideration given to confidentiality, data protection obligations, and other rules.”
With the aim that following the recommendations of the PPPSC paper will strengthen the UAE AML/CFT framework and improve clarity on understanding and fighting illicit financial flows among both public and private institutions.
The PPPSC’s plans will be noted by global financial crime watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which found the UAE to have ‘strategic deficiencies' in its AML/CFT framework in June 2022, although in so doing the FATF also acknowledged the country’s commitment to building resilience to money laundering and terrorist financing.
The PPPSC echoed the FATF acknowledgement by adding that “the UAE has implemented significant reforms to combat financial crime in recent years and will continue strengthening its approach in line with international standards and the global AML/CFT agenda.”
Read more on this story at Arabian Business.
Crown Prosecution Service could investigate King Charles’ charity, The Prince’s Foundation
On 21 November 2022 The UK’s London Metropolitan Police were reported to have handed a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) which includes allegations that The Prince’s Foundation, a charity founded by King Charles when he was still the next-in-line heir to the throne, may have engaged in unsavoury ‘cash-for-honours’ activities.
The potentially damning dossier stems from September 2021 reports that following sensational media reports on the matter, the anti-monarchy advocacy group, Republic, laid a formal complaint with the Metropolitan Police.
Republic alleged that then-aide to the Prince of Wales, Michael Fawcett, helped facilitate the awarding of the coveted Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) honour to Saudi businessman, Dr Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, in 2016, as a possible reward for making donations to the organisation totalling £1.5m. Allegedly, the monies were channelled into restoration projects of personal interest to then-Prince Charles.
At the time of writing, neither the King nor The Prince’s Trust has commented on the matter, and no police charges of any kind have been laid. Mahfouz has meanwhile been cleared of any wrongdoing.
The CPS is expected to decide on further investigation of the matter before Christmas 2022.
Read more on this story at BBC.
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