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Belgium and the UAE Embrace Collaboration in Financial Crime Fight

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Cooperation seems to be the overarching theme of the week in Europe, with Belgium, the UK, and the UAE announcing initiatives that take a collaborative approach to combating financial crime.

In Belgium, The Brussels Times reported on Friday, June 18, that Febelfin, the nonprofit financial sector federation, has launched a consultation platform to fight money laundering. The platform will provide interested public and private entities a forum to share knowledge, give feedback, and exchange ideas on the current AML/CFT landscape — from the risks and trends to the various regulatory obligations. Assuralia, the National Bank of Belgium, the Financial Services and Markets Authority, and the Financial Intelligence Processing Unit have signed on as partners to the initiative. 

Febelfin has introduced the platform in hopes that it will encourage a higher level of collaboration between the financial sector and public authorities. The Brussels Times goes on to say that the nonprofit would like to follow the example the UK has set in facilitating information sharing between financial institutions, law enforcement, and regulators. Per Febelfin, that collaboration made it possible for UK law enforcement to seize over £56 million (€65.3 million) and detect 5,000 suspicious accounts.

Belgium isn’t the only country holding the UK up as an example.

On Monday, June 21, the UK and the UAE announced that they just finished a two-week-long conference aimed at improving the UAE’s money-laundering controls. Representatives from the UAE’s Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing — which was established earlier this year — met with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HRMC) and the Serious and Organised Crime Network (SOCnet) to discuss AML/CFT challenges and best practices.

This conference was preceded by several workshops hosted by the HRMC in March and April, where the UK shared its technical expertise with several institutions across the UAE. While several different areas of AML/CFT approaches were discussed, of particular interest were the risks around trade-based money laundering and money service businesses.

It’s also one of a few actions the UAE has taken to shore up its financial crime controls this year, following a warning issued last year by FATF that it was being placed under a year-long observation period. The country has established a special court for money laundering and tax evasion cases. In addition, the central bank has released updated guidance on how financial institutions can spot and report suspicious transactions.

FATF has not given any indication yet as to whether these actions are enough to keep the UAE off its greylist, and it’s too early to tell if any of the measures the UAE is taking will be effective. But it is nevertheless encouraging to see signs of possible improvement.

Originally published June 24, 2021, updated May 6, 2022

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