GSD highlights ‘frustration’ as Gib remains on FATF grey list, drawing Govt accusation of ‘political opportunism’
The decision by the Financial Action Task Force to keep Gibraltar on its ‘grey list’ of high-risk jurisdictions is “frustrating”, the GSD said, as it criticised the Gibraltar Government for an “underwhelming” lack of detail in statements as to how it would achieve delisting.
The GSD was reacting after the FATF, the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, said Gibraltar had missed the May deadline of its action plan to meet all the areas of concern highlighted by inspectors.
But the Gibraltar Government accused the GSD of politicising an issue of “crucial” importance to Gibraltar,
Gibraltar was placed on the FATF list in June 2022 even after complying with all but two of the 78 recommendations made in a MONEYVAL mutual evaluation report.
It agreed an action plan to address the outstanding points by May this year but last Friday the FATF said there was still work to do.
The FATF reported Gibraltar’s “strong progress” in meeting FATF requirements, including ensuring that sectors from gaming to law and financial services were now using a range of “effective, proportionate, and dissuasive sanctions” for breaches of anti-money laundering rules.
But it pointed too to remaining strategic deficiencies, specifically pursuing final confiscation judgements.
The GSD reminded that government that Albert Isola, the Minister for Financial Services, had expressed optimism last year that he was “100% certain” Gibraltar would be listed by now.
That optimism was “evidently misplaced”, the GSD said.
“The Minister for Financial Services Hon Albert Isola MP continues to express optimism that Gibraltar will achieve delisting but he must accept that there is a growing sense of frustration at the failure to deliver on that optimism,” said Roy Clinton, the GSD Shadow Minster for Financial Services and Gaming.
“Indeed, in June 2022 the Government had stated it would show compliance ‘within the timescale given’, [but] that time has now expired.”
“The minister will be aware that our financial services industry is suffering at the ignominy of being listed between Congo and Haiti as a high risk jurisdiction.”
“The FATF in its report stated that Gibraltar needed to show that we are ‘able to pursue more final confiscation judgements commensurate with the risk and context of Gibraltar’.”
“In June 2022 the GSD raised this as a potential issue given that the achievement of confiscation orders were necessarily outside political control.”
“However there may be laws that Government could review to ensure the mandatory pursuit of confiscation proceedings in a greater number of cases.”
“In addition we need reassurance that the resourcing of the analysis and investigation units of the RGP are adequate in pursuing potential money laundering activities.”
Mr Clinton noted that the Cayman Islands had a similar point to address and the FATF had now accepted authorities there had met its action plan so as to commence the process for delisting in October 2023 after an onsite visit.
“Is there anything we can learn from the success of the Cayman Islands approach?” Mr Clinton asked.
“Given that FATF states that ‘all deadlines have expired’ we invite the minister to make a statement in Parliament as to what practical and urgent steps are being taken to satisfy FATF that Gibraltar should be delisted at their next meeting in October 2023.”
The response came in a press statement rather than in Parliament, as the government said it “deeply regrets” the GSD’s criticism.
“Up until now, the Opposition had demonstrated maturity and responsibility in their approach to this delicate matter, having been offered private briefings to stay informed about the progress being made,” No.6 Convent Place said.
The government said the GSD was “fully aware” that the FATF process was subject to strict rules of confidentiality, adding it would respect these “even when subjected to unfair and ill-founded criticism”.
“It is truly unfortunate that they have now chosen to prioritise scoring cheap political points over this important matter,” No.6 added.
No.6 said “substantial and significant progress” had been made in the Government’s work to address the FATF's requirements.
The Government said its commitment to achieving delisting “remains unwavering” and that “serious work” continued to meet the FATF requirements.
“There is nothing more the Government can do at this moment in time as the work of our law enforcement agencies and regulators takes its course,” No.6 added.
“These steps are quite properly outside the remit of HMGOG.”
The Minister for Digital and Financial Services, Albert Isola, added: “Roy Clinton’s statement smacks of political opportunism.”
“While the opposition seeks to undermine our efforts, the Government remains resolute in achieving delisting and restoring our jurisdiction's reputation.”
“It is regrettable that the opposition has abandoned their previous responsible approach for a misconceived political advantage. They really should know better.”
“Notwithstanding the GSD opposition’s change in approach, I continue to extend an invitation to the Opposition to meet them and brief them privately.”
“I will never tire of thanking our regulators and law enforcement agencies for their professionalism in addressing the FATF requirements and have every confidence we will achieve delisting very soon.”