Burundi is set to join the global agenda cracking-down financial crimes including money laundering by creating its Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). Towards this goal, COMESA is supporting the country to conform to the international standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in line with Burundian needs.
Recently, Burundi FIU Board officials comprising of security and customs officers undertook a benchmarking tour of the FIU Unit in Mauritius. The trip was sponsored by the COMESA Regional Maritime Security (MASE) programme, which covers Eastern and Southern Africa and Indian Ocean (ESA-IO) region. A similar trip is planned to the Uganda Financial Intelligence Authority towards end of April 2022.
The core functions of FIUs are receipt and analysis of suspicions transaction and activity reports identified and filed by reporting entities, and disseminate the intelligence to law enforcement agencies and other FIUs, upon request. The FATF is the global money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing watchdog and sets international standards that aim to prevent these illegal activities and the harm they cause to society.
Undertaking benchmarking visit to two advanced FIUs is one of the conditions Burundi has been given in its process to join the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) whilst this shall also aide the country in creation of its FIU. ESAAMLG is a FATF Style Regional Body (FSRB) for Eastern and Southern Africa.
“A well-functioning FIU is a key driving force of every national Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) agenda, among other interventions. This has compelled COMESA to invest support towards creation and strengthening of FIUs in the ESA-IO region to effectively deliver on their AML/CFT mandates, in line with FATF international standards” COMESA MASE Coordinator, Ms. Dalitso Bonongwe, said.
Burundi is a second programme country supported to undertake benchmarking visits. The first was Eritrea whose delegation visited Seychelles in September 2016, when the country was contemplating on creating its own financial intelligence unit.
To promote effective implementation of FATF recommendations, countries are encouraged to acquire membership of FSRBs to ensure they are guided and monitored towards alignment of their respective AML/CFT policies and procedures to the international standards.
The FATF standards are implemented through measures adapted to countries’ varying contexts. Member countries of FSRBs benefit from continuous capacity building opportunities, among other advantages.
COMESA has been implementing the MASE Programme since 2015, supporting 12 countries to strengthen their anti-money laundering regimes. This includes capacity building of their financial intelligence units and law enforcement agencies, strengthening of their anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism laws and enhancing internal and external collaboration.
This year, additional extra-budgetary resources to extend the programme to the whole region has been mobilized. This follows the decision of the 17th Meeting of the COMESA Ministers of Foreign Affairs to extend the programme to other countries