Remarks by FATF President Marshall Billingslea

Publication details




Remarks by FATF President Marshall Billingslea

FATF President Marshall Billingslea (left) and US Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin during the FATF Ministerial, in Washington DC, 12 April 2019

Washington DC, April 12 2019
FATF Ministerial Meeting 

As prepared for delivery

Dear Ministers, colleagues, good afternoon. Thank you, Secretary Mnuchin, for those opening remarks and for your leadership.

When the G7 created the FATF in 1989, it only had 16 members who were focused on combating the problem of money laundering derived from drug trafficking and organized crime networks.  Thirty years later, FATF members come from 36 countries and two multinational bodies.  Our mandate has also expanded to include the fight against terrorist financing (since 2001) and against the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (since 2012).  Furthermore, 205 jurisdictions worldwide have now committed to implementing core anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism Standards and agreed to be evaluated by their peers, according to these Standards.

Our resolve in combating illicit finance has been immutable over the last 30 years.  The expansion of the scope and reach of the FATF standards have not altered nor diminished our core objectives, but rather reinforced and amplified them.  Through the FATF, we continue to work to protect financial systems and the broader global economy, thereby strengthening financial sector integrity and contributing to safety and security of our citizens at national and international levels.

As further evidence of how far the FATF has come in 30 years, I would cite the recent adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2462.  The new resolution, and thank you to the French for your leadership on this, is significant in recognizing the essential role of the FATF in setting the global standard for preventing and combatting money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing and in leading the Global Network of FATF-style regional bodies.

The challenges our nations face continue to evolve, however.  This is why we need to update our priorities and strategy.  As a procedural matter, our current priorities were set when you or your predecessors last met in 2012.  It is long overdue that we review and renew them.  

First, I will outline briefly what the FATF has accomplished since 2012:

  • The FATF has expanded its efforts to address the terrorist financing threat. Recent events in particular, have shown that terrorism remains a threat to international peace and security from which no region is immune.
  • Terrorist groups such as ISIL, Al-Qaeda, and their affiliates are evolving, but they continue to obtain funding from a wide range of sources to conduct terrorist acts and to maintain and grow their terrorist organizations as a whole.  Combatting all of these aspects of terrorist financing remains a top priority for the FATF.
  • The FATF has continued to emphasize the effective use of financial intelligence as a critical factor in identifying and tracking criminals, including through exchange of information at the domestic and international levels.
  • The FATF has also worked to promote financial inclusion and encourage proportionate and effective implementation of the FATF standards by regulators and banks to address de-risking challenges.
  • The FATF’s core work in assessing compliance and effectiveness is critical, as it highlights areas where levels of effective implementation are low.  As the standard-setter on beneficial ownership, the FATF has stressed the need to improve the transparency of legal persons and arrangements, but only a few countries until now have demonstrated effectiveness in this area.
  • In addition to its assessment process, the FATF examined in 2015-2016 the legal frameworks of nearly 200 jurisdictions to determine whether they had measures to criminalize terrorist financing and impose targeted financial sanctions in relation to terrorism.  As a result of this process, 96 countries passed the necessary legislation.
  • We have over the past years publicly identified 69 jurisdictions that were failing to fix strategic deficiencies.  By the beginning of this year, 55 of these had made necessary reforms because of this process.
  • Since 2012, the FATF has also expanded its membership with two new members (Malaysia in 2016 and Israel in 2018) and two observers (Indonesia and Saudi Arabia) who are working towards membership. Today, in the G20, for example, all members are either FATF members or in the process of becoming members.

Now in its 30th year, the FATF under the U.S. Presidency is:

  • Taking concrete steps to address the illicit financing risks associated with virtual currencies and related assets.
  • Taking further action to strengthen international efforts to combat the financing of terrorism through implementation of the standards, risk understanding and interagency coordination.
  • Enhancing its efforts to counter the financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Looking forward, I will mention a few of the challenges we have identified as among the most pressing in the near future. These challenges have informed the priorities for the next four years as set out in the draft Ministerial Declaration.

  • The evaluation process is not yet complete for all jurisdictions; however, we can already see that weaknesses in effective implementation of the FATF Standards are more pronounced in the non-FATF jurisdictions of the Global Network. This relates particularly to high-risk areas. 
  • The FATF will also continue to respond to new and emerging threats. Financial innovations such as digital ID or virtual assets require the FATF to monitor risks and opportunities in this area. 

The Ministerial Declaration proposed for adoption today, along with the revised Mandate, sets out priorities for the FATF to address these challenges by strengthening its internal governance and ultimately its capacity to respond to the threats all countries face.  Ministers should have a greater opportunity to discuss FATF-related issues to promote a cohesive approach, provide greater political awareness, and reinforce member’s commitment.  We propose to achieve this goal by having ministerial meetings every four years.  This will help to raise FATF’s profile and visibility on the global stage.

Finally, we need to encourage a sustainable and long-term commitment to the FATF.  For this, the FATF needs the necessary resources and support to effectively fulfil its mandate.  In addition, we should recognize that the FATF has evolved from a temporary forum to a continuing public and political commitment.  Therefore, it makes sense for the FATF Mandate to become open-ended rather than for a fixed term.

Before concluding, I would like to highlight that the FATF’s success as a task force is only made possible through national efforts and domestic policies. This is about your efforts back home to make sure your authorities effectively cooperate in pursuing the money of criminals and terrorists. This is about the effectiveness of our national security policies in the fight against criminal groups and terrorist organizations that put the lives of our citizens at risk.  30 years ago, most countries had not even criminalized money laundering and terrorist financing.  Thanks to the FATF, most countries around the world have now done that.  We see progress in investigating and prosecuting these crimes.  This is helping to reduce real harms caused to society by drugs, people trafficking, fraud and now cybercrime.  This is what the FATF is all about, and why your continued focus on the FATF’s work is critical.

I look forward to working under your guidelines for the rest of my Presidency before handing over to my colleague Mr LIU Xiangmin from China who will assume the FATF Presidency in July.