The Office of the Attorney General has announced its preparation for the evaluation of Tonga’s legal framework to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The Attorney General’s Office wishes to announce that Government Ministries and Agencies are preparing for the evaluation of Tonga’s legal framework to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
This evaluation will be conducted by the regional body known as the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) in 2019/2020.
Tonga was a member of the Group since 2005.
This includes the Attorney General’s Office, the National Reserve Bank of Tonga, Tonga Police, the Ministry of Revenue and Customs, the Ministry of Commerce, Consumption, Trade, Innovation and Labour, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Tonga first underwent its first mutual evaluation in 2009/2010, and the APG adopted and published Tonga’s first mutual evaluation report in 2010.
Tonga will be assessed against the internationally accepted standards known as the
Financial Action Task Force’s 40 Recommendations on the International Standards for Combatting Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism and Proliferation, which were revised in 2012, and amended in 2017.
The assessment will involve two parts. First, Tonga’s technical compliance with the recommended international standards. This involves an assessment of Tonga’s legislation and institutional framework, and the powers and procedures of its competent authorites to implement the recoemmended international standards.
The second aspect of the evaluation, is an assessment of the effectiveness of Tonga implementing its legal framework to combat money laundering and financing of terrorism and proliferation in order to mitigate risks that exist within Tonga from money laundering, and terrorist and proliferation financing.
Tonga’s efforts will be led by the Cabinet Committee on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Activities that was established in 2003, and the preparation for the mutual evaluation will be jointly facilitated by the Attorney General’s Office and the National Reserve Bank of Tonga, and supported by the Ministry of Commerce, Consumers, Trade, Innovation and Labour, Ministry of Revenue and Customs, Tonga Police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Government Ministries and Agencies will also be partnering and relying on the critical support of financial institutions and cash dealers in their understanding and compliance with Tonga’s legal requirements on anti-money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
These include entities such as the commercial banks, money remitters, foreign exchange dealers, insurance companies, charitable trusts, lottery operators, real estate agents, precious metal dealers, lawyers, accountants, auditors, tax advisors, trusts and company service providers, and all entities covered under the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime Act.
The Secretariat of the APG will soon appoint experts from its Member countries to conduct the mutual evaluation of Tonga in 2019 and 2020. The assessors will visit Tonga
on a number of occasions to conduct the mutual evaluation, and will emet with both Governement and various private sector representatives to obtain relevant information for the evaluation.
The process is expected to end in July 2020 with the adoption of the Mutual Evalaution Report of Tonga during the APG Plenary meeting, and the subsequent publishing by the APG of that report in September 2020.
The mutual evaluation process is important for Tonga so that it maintains a good standing in international finance, and also establishes that Tonga has a strong reputation of effectively implementing its legal framework on combatting money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
If Tonga does not do well after the mutual evaluation, international finance with Tonga may be limited or abolished, because there will be decreased in credibility of Tonga in combatting these crimes of money laundering, terrrosim and proliferation, which may lead in a decrease of foreign investors investing in Tonga, or a decrease in the establishment of businesses for the employment of Tongans.
In the last APG Plenary meeting that was held in Kathmandu, Nepal on 21 to 27 July 2018, the mutual evaluation report of the Cook Islands was adopted, and it was accepted that the Cook Islands was compliant or largely compliant with 38 of the 40 recommendations. The Acting Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr ‘Aminiasi Kefu, was part of the assessment team that conducted the mutual evaluation of the Cook Islands in 2017/2018, together with five other assessors from Australia, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Peoples’Republic of China and Hong Kong China.
The mutual evaluation report of Vanuatu, which was adopted by the APG Plenary meeting in 2015, was also reviewed by the APG in Kathmandu, Nepal, and the APG Plenary meeting accepted that Vanuatu was compliant or largely compliant on 39 out of the 40 recommendations.
The adoption of the Cook Islands mutual evaluation report and the upgrading of the Vanuatu mutual evaluation report has placed these two Pacific Islands countries as two of the best in the world in implementing the international standards on combatting money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation.
According to the Acting Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions the mutual evaluation will involve a lot of work, and so the collaboration and support of Government is required to amend the laws, policies and procedures within Government Minsitries and Agencies, and also the financial institutions and cash dealers, and so he called upon for all these entities to work together to deliver a good image of Tonga in this area.