FO spokesperson rejects reports of ‘Saudi Arabia’s role’ in Pakistan’s FATF assessment

Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri on Thursday rejected “false media reports” regarding Saudi Arabia’s role in the assessment of Pakistan’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF) action plan.

The spokesperson “categorically rejected the story circulating on a segment of the media as false and baseless”, said a press release.

Earlier in the day, Azhar Mashwani, Punjab chief minister’s focal person for digital media, tweeted that reports of ‘Saudi Arabia voting against Pakistan in FATF’ was fake news and that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would issue a statement on this.

“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong fraternal ties and the two countries have always cooperated with each other on all matters of bilateral, regional and international importance,” said the statement by the spokesperson.

“Pakistan greatly values its relations with the brotherly Saudi Arabia and firmly rejects such malicious propaganda.”

A virtual meeting of the FATF, from Oct 21-23, will decide if Pakistan should be excluded from its ‘grey list’, based on a review of Islamabad’s performance to meet global commitments and standards on fight against money laundering and terror financing (ML&TF).

The FATF plenary was earlier scheduled in June but Islamabad got an unexpected breather after the global watchdog against financial crimes temporarily postponed all mutual evaluations and follow-up deadlines in the wake of grave health risk following Covid-19 pandemic. The Paris-based agency also put a general pause in the review process, thus giving additional four months to Pakistan to meet the requirements.

The plenary had formally placed Pakistan in the grey list in June 2018 due to ‘strategic deficiencies’ in its AML/CFT regime after a push from India supported by the US, the UK and some European countries.

The FATF will examine if the country had demonstrated remedial actions and sanctions applied in cases of AML/CFT violations, relating to terrorist financing (TF) risk management and TFS (terror financing sanctions) obligations.

The FATF will also judge if competent authorities were cooperating and taking action to identify and taking enforcement action against illegal money or value transfer services (MVTS) and had proven implementation of cross-border currency and bearer negotiable instruments (BNI) controls at all ports of entry, including applying effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.

Pakistan has also to determine if law enforcement agencies (LEAs) were identifying and investigating the widest range of terror financing activity and that TF investigations and prosecution target designated persons and entities, and those acting on behalf or at the direction of the designated persons or entities besides showing TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.

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