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Wednesday, 9 March 2016, Lusaka: The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the European Union and INTERPOL have launched a 1.3 million euros programme in a joint partnership to fight money laundering.

This is a part of the larger EU-sponsored 37.5 Million Euro programme that was developed to combat piracy and increase maritime security in 2014.

The regional Maritime Security (MASE) programme is implemented by COMESA, the East African Community (EAC), the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Indian Ocean Community (IOC).

The launch of the new partnership with INTERPOL was witnessed by the Assistant Secretary General in charge of programmes (COMESA) Dr Kipyego Cheluget, the Head of Political, Press and Information at the EU Delegation to the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Rune Skinnebach, and INTERPOL Senior Project Manager, Mr. Dimitrios Souxes.

INTERPOL will be implementing one of the objectives of the COMESA component within the framework of an Implementation Agreement signed between the two organizations in 2015. Specifically INTERPOL will support investigative capacity building of law enforcement agencies in the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Region in the area of financial crimes at the national and international levels.

The COMESA Component will address the whole range of processes in the fight against money laundering. COMESA has been involved in building the analytical capacity of Financial Intelligence Units of the members that were most affected by Piracy.

COMESA is also supporting its members to develop or amend their Anti-Money Laundering /Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) laws to comply with international standards as defined by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

The Head of the European Union Delegation to Zambia and Special representative to COMESA Ambassador Alessandro Mariani, in a statement presented by Mr. Skinnebach expressed satisfaction on the progress made in the implementation of the programme. He was particularly delighted at the entry of INTERPOL in the implementation of the programme, which he described as having technical expertise. He expressed hope that INTERPOL involvement would greatly benefit the programme.

“I am very pleased that we and COMESA can benefit from INTERPOL’s technical expertise and tools in the context of this ambitious regional programme, which I am convinced will be instrumental in the fight against money laundering and the financing of illicit activities”, Ambassador Mariani said.

This was also echoed by the Assistant Secretary General of COMESA, who commended INTERPOL for the role it plays in criminal investigation.

“… over, it is recognized that INTERPOL is the authority when it comes to criminal investigation so I must say that the entry of INTERPOL and the timing of their entry are very welcome.” Dr Cheluget said. “Our desire is to see our region ultimately producing mentors to other jurisdictions with respect to expertise in anti-money laundering and combating the financing of illicit activities.”

Dr Cheluget urged INTERPOL to ensure that the skills imparted result in developing the capacity of those targeted to become trainers.

In his remarks, Mr. Souxes emphasized on the timeliness and value of the training that will be extended to Law Enforcement Agencies:

“Training and capacity building play a key role in INTERPOL’s overall mission to promote international police cooperation. The COMESA-INTERPOL-EU partnership is a significant and timely opportunity to build the capacity of law enforcement agencies in our member countries in the ESA region, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and best practices needed to meet today's policing challenges in the fight against money laundering and the financing of illicit activities,” – Mr. Souxes, said.

The programme responds to several Decisions of COMESA Authority including a decision of the Ninth Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, which was held in Zimbabwe in 2009 calling on increased coordinated efforts that address piracy in a holistic manner.