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Russia creates own Financial Blacklist

Just five months after being removed from an international blacklist of non-cooperative countries in the global fight against terrorism and money laundering, Russia has decided to create its own catalogue of countries considered to be engaged in inappropriate financial activities.

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on Friday ordered the Financial Monitoring Committee to draw up Russia's own blacklist based on recommendations from the Foreign Ministry, Federal Security Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service.

The companies and individuals that are located in the listed countries, or those that have bank accounts in them, will face close scrutiny from the committee, Kasyanov said.

Committee spokeswoman Natalya Konovalova said she doubted the committee's blacklist will be much different from the current list created by the Financial Action Task Force, an arm of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development working to fight money laundering.

Russia was removed from the FATF blacklist after much negotiation last October.

The committee's list is likely to be compiled by the end of April, Konovalova said.

There are currently 10 countries and territories on the FATF's blacklist: the Cook Islands, Egypt, Guatemala, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nigeria, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Philippines and Ukraine.

Konovalova said that Russia's own blacklist will not exceed that of FATF and could, in fact, be shorter due to the exclusion of Ukraine. "It is on the way out anyway," she said.

The Financial Monitoring Committee, a government watchdog set up to chase dirty money, became operational in February 2002.

The committee has nearly unlimited access to financial activities throughout the country.

According to Russia's law on preventing money laundering, the committee receives information about all registered transactions of more than 600,000 rubles ($19,120).

According to Konovalova, the committee keeps track of firms or individuals who conduct a large number of smaller transactions in short periods of time.

The committee currently receives about 3,000 reports per day on various transactions.

So far, it has received 400,000 individual reports, 4,800 of which have been passed on to law enforcement agencies.

The committee also has managed to uncover a number of large-scale money-laundering schemes, which are currently being investigated by several law enforcement bodies, including the FSB.

Details on these cases are not available for the public, Konovalova said.

Although information on almost any remotely significant deal comes to the committee, Konovalova said that most of it never goes anywhere beyond a technical, computer-managed first analysis.

She also emphasized that the ceiling of 600,000 rubles "is, in fact, very liberal."

"In the United States any transaction over $10,000 is reported, and in Italy it's as little as $5,000," Konovalova said in a telephone interview Friday.

(The Moscow Times 31.iii.03)

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