Burkina Faso makes progress in the fight against money-laundering and terrorism financing

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Crime and terrorism are serious concerns for the Sahel region. Profits generated by illicit activities are often invested in the formal economy, corrupting economic development to the benefit of criminal groups. Conversely, legitimate financial flows are increasingly used by terrorist groups to sustain their destabilizing activities.

To counter these threats, the anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) system gives a central role to Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs). However, these units' effectiveness relies on the cooperation of national reporting entities, which are legally obliged to declare any suspicious transaction.

The UNODC Global Programme against Money-Laundering, the Proceeds of Crime and the Financing of Terrorism (GPML) organized a national workshop for reporting entities on combatting ML/FT in Burkina Faso. The event was organized thanks to the financial support of the Government of Luxembourg and the logistical support of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).

The group of participants after the workshop
The group of participants after the workshop

From 21 to 23 March 2017, 30 representatives from financial and non-financial sectors (i.e. microfinance, lawyers, notaries, house of change, precious stone dealers, transfer agencies, real estate and insurance) attended this workshop which aimed at raising awareness on their role in combatting ML/FT. The workshop was opened by Mrs. Marie Beatrice Tassimbeba Tapsoba, President of the FIU of Burkina Faso. She stated that the workshop was timely in view of the growing need to raise awareness for reporting entities in the country.

In Burkina Faso, the new AML/CFT Directive of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) has been implemented through the AML/CFT Act No. 016-2016 of 3 May 2016. Moreover, in 2018, Burkina Faso will carry out its national risk assessment in line with the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). During this process, reporting entities will assess the vulnerabilities of their respective sectors to money laundering and terrorism financing.

Key documents were presented to participants: the main elements of the AML/CFT Act No. 016-2016 with regards to reporting entities, and the form to report suspicious transactions. Practical group exercises helped participants to identify money laundering methods and to search terrorists and terrorist groups online. While representatives of the financial sector were aware of these lists (UN and Office of Foreign Assets Control), others (e.g. real estate) had never heard of them.

The workshop was closed by the President of the FIU who encouraged beneficiaries to send more suspicious transaction reports to the FIU as a result of the training. To date, suspicious transactions have mostly been reported by the banking sector. Burkina Faso has seen no convictions for ML/FT cases up to date: reporting entities can make the first step to change this trend.

Evaluations by the participants indicated that the objectives of the training were met. They highlighted the relevance of the training for their daily activities and stated it will help to conduct due diligence in their businesses. All the participants indicated they will share the knowledge and skills acquired during the workshop with their colleagues.

UNODC implemented similar activities in Mali and Niger in 2016 through its Sahel Programme, which constitutes the UNODC Contribution to the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS), launched by the UN Security Council in 2012 in response to the conflicts in Libya (2011) and Mali (2012).