High-risk countries

The risk-based approach provided for in Article 7 of the Law of 18 September 2017 (the AML Law) includes the adaptation of vigilance measures, that shall be applied on the obliged entities, to the identified ML/TF risks. If the obliged entities find that the ML/TF risk is high, they must increase vigilance.

Relations with natural persons or legal entities established in third countries showing a high-risk, shall automatically be considered as being a high risk in respect of which the obliged entities shall impose increased vigilance measures (Article 38 of the AML Law).

Third countries showing a high risk are defined in Article 5 of the AML Law as countries considered as having a high geographical risk by:

  1. The FATF
  2. The European Commission
  3. The National Security Council, the Ministerial Committee for the co-ordination of the fight against the laundering of money of illegal origin or the obliged entities themselves.

In red = Countries applying counter-mesure against FATF

in purple = Countries with increased due diligence measures against FATF and EU
in turquoise = Countries with increased due diligence measures only against EU
in yellow = Countries with increased due diligence measures only against FATF

FATF list of countries showing a high ML/FT risk for the international financial system

FATF Recommendation 19 calls on countries to apply a high level of vigilance in respect of business relationships and transactions with natural persons, legal entities and financial institutions established in countries that are identified by FATF as countries having strategic deficiencies in the fight against anti-money laundering and the financing of terrorism or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The FATF uses lists of countries having strategic AML/CFT deficiencies which are included in two documents that are issued three times per year:

Countries in the FATF ‘Public Statement'

These are countries in respect of which the FATF calls on its members to apply effective countermeasures in order to protect the international financial system against the ML/FT risks emanating from these countries. Examples of such countermeasures can be found in the Interpretive Note to recommendation 19 (p.78). 

The list currently includes:

  1. North Korea
  2. Iran

Yet, the call to take countermeasures against Iran was suspended in June 2016 because Iran has demonstrated high-level political commitment to overcome its AML/CFT deficiencies via the implementation of an Action plan and has decided to seek technical assistance for that purpose. However, Iran will remain on the FATF Public Statement until the full Action Plan has been completed. In the meantime, a number of countermeasures against Iran also came back into force, including in the area of reporting suspicious transactions. 

Countries in the FATF ‘Compliance Document

These are the countries in respect of which increased vigilance shall be applied. These countries have strategic AML/CFT deficiencies in respect of which an action plan has been developed in collaboration with the FATF, in order to overcome these deficiencies.

This list currently includes:

  1. Botswana
  2. Cambodia
  3. Ghana
  4. Iceland
  5. Mongolia
  6. Pakistan
  7. Panama
  8. Syria
  9. The Bahamas
  10. Trinidad and Tobago
  11. Yemen
  12. Zimbabwe

EU list of countries showing a high ML/FT risk for the EU financial system

Article 9 of directive 2015/849 empowers the European Commission to identify third countries that show strategic deficiencies in their national AML/CFT regulations, which poses a serious threat for the EU financial system („high-risk third countries”). Increased vigilance must be applied in respect of relationships with customers established in those countries.

For the first time, on the basis of this authorisation, the Commission established a list of third countries involved, attached as an annex to the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/1675 of 14 July 2016. This list is updated regularly and was last modified on 22 October 2018.

The EU list currently includes:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  3. Ethiopia
  4. Guiana
  5. Irak
  6. Iran
  7. Laos
  8. North Korea
  9. Pakistan
  10. Sri Lanka
  11. Syria
  12. Trinidad and Tobago
  13. Tunisia
  14. Uganda
  15. Vanuatu
  16. Yemen

The EU list is based on the Commission’s own assessment, and therefore, any adaptations of the FATF list will not be automatically integrated in the EU list. Consequently, the EU list mentions other countries than the FATF list.

Absence of a Belgian list

Article 54 of the AML Law provides for the possibility at Belgian level to take countermeasures against countries that - within the framework of national risk assessment - are identified as countries with inadequate regulations or with traditions that constitute an obstacle to the fight against money laundering or the financing of terrorism.

To the present day no use has yet been made of the above-mentioned possibility.

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