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Global watchdog adds Monaco to money laundering 'grey list'

By AFP - Jun 30,2024 - Last updated at Jun 30,2024

This photo shows a general view of moored yacht at the Hercules Port during the 32nd edition of the International Monaco Yacht Show in Monaco, on September 27, 2023 (AFP photo)

PARIS — Global anti-money laundering watchdog the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) said recently it had added Monaco to a "grey list" of countries subject to increased monitoring.

The action comes despite Monaco having already taken a series of actions after being singled out by the Council of Europe's anti-money laundering body following a series of unverified claims against figures close to Prince Albert II.

The FATF, a Paris-based organisation which monitors efforts by more than 200 countries and jurisdictions to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism, added Monaco and Venezuela its grey list at a plenary meeting held in Singapore.

Grey list nations are considered to have "strategic deficiencies" in countering money laundering and terrorist financing, while however cooperating with the FATF to correct the problems.

Long known as a playground for the rich and famous, Monaco attracts moneyed residents due to an extremely favourable tax regime which include an absence of income and wealth taxes.

"Despite significant progress achieved since 2022, Monaco needs to address strategic deficiencies," said FATF President Raja Kumar.

Monaco's government said it is committed to getting off the grey list.

"The principality confirms its determination to implement the latest FATF recommendations set out in the declaration, in accordance with the planned deadlines," the government of the Mediterranean tax haven said.

The FATF found that Monaco had not taken enough efforts to stop laundering money from fraud committed abroad or moved aggressively enough to seize criminal assets.

It also judged money-laundering penalties to be insufficient and investigators lacked sufficient resources.

In January 2023 the Council of Europe's anti-money laundering body Moneyval urged Monaco to intensify its efforts in the investigation and prosecution of money laundering. It has since adopted nine laws to toughen its rules and boost its anti-money laundering body, the AMSF.

Local sources have said it has been difficult to apply the measures immediately due to a lack of qualified staff.

A 2023 census put the number of Monegasques at 9,720, which means that Monaco often needs to rely on foreign experts, which is not in conformity with FATF rules.

Monaco was briefly on a OECD blacklist of financial centres in 2009, which prompted it to undertake a series of transparency measures and put into place cooperation agreements to help crack down on tax evasion.

Monaco has been shaken since the end of 2021 by anonymous denunciations orchestrated by a website "Les Dossiers du Rocher" ("The Rock Files").

The site accused several figures close to Prince Albert of being in cahoots in a money laundering scheme based on corruption in property deals, and forced the ouster in 2023 of crown assets chief administrator Claude Palmero.

Turkey removed from grey list

The FATF on Friday also removed Jamaica and Turkey from the grey list after they eliminated the identified deficiencies in their efforts to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

"Thanks to the good measures we've adopted, Turkey has been removed from the grey list," the economy ministry said following the decision.

FATF had placed Turkey on the list in October 2021.

A total of 21 nations are on the grey list, including Mali, Vietnam and Yemen.

The FATF also has a "black list" of nations which are considered high-risk jurisdictions.

The body urged countries to apply countermeasures against Iran and North Korea and warned about the latter's "illicit activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and its financing".

It urged countries to end all business with North Korean banks and limit business with Pyongyang entities.

The FATF also urged countries to apply countermeasures to Iran, which it noted had not ratified the Palermo and Terrorist Financing Conventions.

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