Saudi efforts to combat terror financing

September 14, 2017
Saudi efforts to combat terror financing
Ibrahim Al-Othaimin

ON Aug. 20, Saudi Arabia took practical steps in the establishment of the US-Gulf Anti-terrorism Financing Center. This comes as part of the implementation of terms of the joint agreement signed during the 3rd US-Gulf summit held in Riyadh in May 2017.

The Riyadh-based center will monitor, and share information, regarding both outgoing and incoming financial transactions to the Middle East and North Africa. This highlights the determination of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf states to curb the sources of terrorism, which has become a global concern, and has impacted on the security and stability of the financial system and the economy.

Saudi Arabia has a long history of combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism, through its efforts and cooperation with various relevant regional and international organizations, including the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF), and the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.

In June 2015, at a meeting held in Brisbane, Australia, FATF unanimously adopted a resolution granting Saudi Arabia an observer seat after the task force delegation commended the country’s prominent role in combating money laundering, the financing of terrorism and the proliferation of armament. Soon after that, Saudi Arabia started preparations for the third assessment scheduled to take place in June 2018, which may grant Saudi Arabia a permanent seat on FATF. Saudi Arabia was among the leading countries to implement the 40+9 recommendations for combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism initiated by FATF in 1990. Saudi Arabia attended FATF meetings as a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which complies with all international standards in this area and underwent two assessment processes, in 2003-2004 and in 2009-2010, achieving high scores of compliance, and was ranked top among Arab countries and in the top ten of the G20.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia is also a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) having fulfilled membership requirements. The Egmont Group is an informal body established in 1995, aimed at strengthening international cooperation between FIUs to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The group comprises 127 countries with active FIUs.

On a regional scale, Saudi Arabia is one of the Arab founding states of MENAFATF, which was established in 2004 according to international standards of combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism issued by FATF. The Saudi unit is a joint member of the technical assistance and application team as well as the joint assessment team in the group. In the third round of the joint-assessment process, Saudi Arabia was assessed in a joint task between FATF and MENAFATF. The latter commended the Saudi role in combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism as well as achieving the scores required to comply with applicable measures in this area. Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly the best Middle Eastern example of combatting terrorism and curbing its financing.

The establishment of a US-Gulf anti-terrorism financing center in Riyadh certainly indicates international recognition that Saudi Arabia is an active member capable of participating in international efforts to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Its recent unprecedented achievements have become a model to follow.

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin is a Middle East affairs specialist and security analyst based in Riyadh.

He can be contacted at Ibrahim.othaimin@gmail.com or twitter @Alothaimin

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