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UNODC offers international expertise in money laundering fight.

IT'S COMMONLY acknowledged that, whatever its merits, the globalisation of world trade and commerce brings with it vastly enhanced opportunities for money laundering. As the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) points out, in an online report explaining its work, the world-wide spread of inter-connected financial markets greatly extends the range of countries where anti-money laundering (AML) controls are absent or embryonic and enforcement is weak "and unfortunately, many countries particularly those classified as emerging markets, fall into this category." At the same time there's been an increasing involvement of professionals to carry out money laundering functions in recent years "not only to conceal the origin of the source of the proceeds, but to manage the subsequent investment into assets such as real estate, stock, bonds or legitimate businesses." The clear implication of the UNODC memorandum is that the fight against money laundering has itself to take on a global character and has to weak strengthen institutions and laws worldwide if the crime is to be properly tackled.

Step forward the United Nations, and specifically the UNODC based in Vienna. The agency, in co-operation with other international organisations such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, "is mandated to raise governments' awareness of the techniques used to launder money and to provide training for government, banking, financial and law enforcement sectors." A lot of UNODC's work is done through expert working groups which co-operate with governments to draft financial and banking legislation and, just as important, to develop the skills to understand and enforce the legislation. The office, which is highly regarded in anti-money laundering circles, has grown significantly in stature in recent years.

In an interview with the Money Laundering Bulletin Rick McDonell, (NOTE--one 'n' in McDonell) chief of the UNODC's Global Programme against Money Laundering, explained something of the agency's history and responsibilities. It was begun eight years ago "with the intention to have a programme that could be called global and that brought to bear the resources of UNODC and of donor countries in the UN that were prepared to sponsor or pay for expert mentors in the field in other parts of the world," he said.

There is a "resource limitation" on the agency's work--another way of saying it can't quite keep pace with demand. "It's a reflection of the demands placed on us by developing countries which in turn is an indication of the success of the FATF's work," Mr McDonell said. "As money laundering has become an issue, and more focused on, so many more countries have decided they have to respond to it. And in the developing world many countries have turned to us for assistance--the demands for what we do are far greater now than they were a few years ago." He spelled these out: "drafting assistance, FIU development, financial investigation training, judicial and prosecution work including workshops and seminars."

These can be costly; especially if expert professionals from more developed western countries are employed on an ad hoc basis as teachers and advisers. The budget for the global programme is about 3.2 million US dollars this year but this is deceptive. The money for global operations comes not from the regular UN budget but from special contributions from a relatively few member states and is normally earmarked by these donors for special money laundering operations or for use in specified regions. The big donor countries are the US, the UK, France and Sweden "though from time to time very small countries contribute if there

is a special issue they're interested in--like Liechtenstein, for instance." Perhaps the most successful single part of UNODC's work however has been the development of long-term resident mentors in the field, Mr McDonell said. "It was decided several years ago that as well as doing one-off, ad hoc or follow-up training and technical assistance with countries and agencies and individual officers, we would also supply individual experts that would live in the country requesting the assistance and be based in the relevant agency," he said.

These resident mentors live at least a year in the country and sometimes two or three years and are based in the relevant agency: "for example we have a person in Namibia in the prosecutor general's office helping establish asset forfeiture and prosecution mechanisms for money laundering," he said. "We've got people in Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Cairo, Hanoi and in South America who do that kind of work in various particularised components. Some are experienced police officers, some are lawyers, some are FIU experts--that kind of thing. We have 11 of them at present but we expect to increase this. The programme is proving very valuable," he said.

Also very successful has been the computer based training project, Mr McDonell said. "We've developed a number of computer based training modules both in the law enforcement field for search and seizure and in the money laundering field for basic investigation familiarity. Those modules have been used to train about 50,000 officers throughout the world in the few years this programme has been running. It's basic training but it has wide appeal and it's widespread because it's self-teaching. We've had very good feedback from it," he said.

Essentially the project involves setting up computer based training centres in numerous locations throughout the world, usually installed in the offices of government departments, banks, financial institutions and so on. "These are basically just rooms where we've put computers under a locally trained manager who works part-time and they are designed to train people in sequence from various agencies of government. It's been very successful and we're developing more components in the next year. At present we have 122 computer based training centres, some doing pure law enforcement and some doing that along with specific money laundering issues."

Part of UNODC's work in combating money laundering overlaps with the UN commitment to attack corruption since "the proceeds of corruption are almost always laundered," Mr McDonell said. "We have the capacity to assist countries to draft legislation which is also important as part of a global programme against corruption," he said. A final, and vital, part of UNODC's operation in AML is though IMoLIN, the International Money Laundering Information Network set up in 1996 by leading international AML organisations. The IMoLIN website serves the global anti-money laundering community "by providing information about national money laundering laws and regulations and contacts for inter-country assistance." UNODC says the site is much used by "policy practitioners, lawyers and law enforcement officers as a key reference point in their daily work." A related service is the Anti-Money Laundering International Database--described as "an important reference tool for law enforcement officers involved in cross-jurisdictional work" though it is not publicly accessible. "UNODC provides the initiatives and the computer capacity for these services and we analyse the findings in partnership with the FATF and its regional bodies, the IMF and the World Bank," Mr McDonell said.

There is a basic complement of 10 staff in UNODC's headquarters in Vienna plus the present tally of 11 mentors but this belies the agency's overall clout. "In addition to this we have ad hoc consultancies for particular specialist jobs like asset forfeiture, and beyond that we can call on other resources in the UN's legal and terrorist prevention branches, all of which overlap with money laundering prevention," he said. * Anti-Money Laundering International Database and IMOLIN are accessible at: about_us.html
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Author:Osborn, Alan
Publication:International News
Date:Oct 1, 2006
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