This week, regulators all over the world turned up the heat on fraudsters and money launderers through collaborative partnerships with relevant role-players as the UK government relaunched its Joint Fraud Taskforce to counter COVID-19 related scam increases, Singapore’s financial regulators teamed up with banks to combat trade-based money laundering, and the Financial Action Task Force’s Paris plenary strengthened the global fight against financial crime by updating guidance procedures for dealing with virtual assets and beneficial ownership identification standards.
Find out more on these stories below.
UK’s Joint Fraud Taskforce commits to fighting rise in fraud scams during the pandemic
The UK government relaunched the Joint Fraud Taskforce this week in a bid to strengthen defences against fraud scams, which have risen in numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Home Office, in collaboration with representatives from the accounting, legal, telecommunications, and retail banking sectors, has developed Fraud Charters which commit all role-players to combatting the rise in the number of scams.
This rejuvenated, multi-pronged approach to tackling scammers is a welcome response to the sharp increase in online, text, and landline driven scams during the pandemic. Restrictive lockdown measures shifted consumers onto digital platforms, making them more vulnerable to tech-savvy crooks.
The Office of Communications (Ofcom), the UK regulatory agency for the broadcasting, telecommunications, and postal sectors, recently published research indicating that nearly 45 million people in the UK have been on the receiving end of possible scam messages in the last three months. The EE mobile network alone blocked 18,000 fraud-involved sim cards over the period.
The Joint Task Force has committed to protecting the public from fraudsters, assisting the victims of fraud, and implementing a pilot direct debit system which will assist in verifying the identities of mobile phone contract applicants. The UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel noted that “Government alone cannot fix this, which is why the Joint Fraud Taskforce will bring together key business leaders to work in partnership to protect the public and tackle this cowardly crime.”
Read more on this story in the IFA.
Singapore’s financial industry sector will soon launch a digital platform to fight financial crime
This week the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) announced it is preparing to launch its new digital platform - COSMIC - which will enable information-sharing among financial institutions about suspicious customer activity and transactions. The integrated platform will focus on preventing or detecting money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing (the funding of weapons of mass destruction).
COSMIC, is being developed by MAS in collaboration with six of Singapore’s largest commercial banks. The integrated digital platform will be the world’s first centralised framework for participating financial institutions to share information with each other about suspicious customer behaviour that may indicate possible money laundering and terrorist financing.
MAS will operate COSMIC and keep a keen watch on potential abuse of the platform’s information database. The regulator hopes to gradually extend COSMIC’s footprint to more financial institutions and make certain elements of information sharing compulsory throughout the sector.
MAS’ assistant Managing Director, Mr Loo Siew Yee, explained that “COSMIC will significantly enhance our financial institutions’ ability to detect and curb suspicious activity, while minimising the impact on legitimate actors.”
The COSMIC platform is scheduled to be launched by mid-2023.
Read more on this story on the MAS website.
FATF’s Paris plenary focuses on virtual assets and beneficial ownership to combat money laundering
The Financial Action Task force concluded its Paris plenary this week with the release of updated guidance for virtual assets and announced proposed revisions to beneficial ownership standards.
The 39 full-member strong, inter-governmental policymaker for combating money laundering and terrorist financing concluded its plenary - the sixth since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic - in Paris this week. Among the highlights of the plenary were advances in the provision of guidance in the virtual assets sector, and progress towards greater transparency in beneficial ownership declaration.
FATF approved publication of its updated ‘Guidance on a Risk-Based Approach to Virtual Assets and Virtual Asset Service Providers’. This iteration of the guidance document will provide different jurisdictions and private sector financial institutions all over the world with the latest advice on implementing FATF recommendations on regulating the virtual asset (VA) and Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) sectors.
FATF also announced that public consultation on its proposed revisions to beneficial ownership standards will be welcomed once published. The new proposals specifically focus on Recommendation 24 of the June 2021 white paper. They aim to improve beneficial ownership information quality to aid law enforcement, enhance international co-operation in establishing ultimate beneficiary identities, and increase transparency around public procurement globally.
Commenting on the plenary findings, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said, “The United States welcomes the significant work by the FATF to enhance beneficial ownership transparency and provide clear standards and guidance for the virtual asset industry.”
Read more on this story in FATF.