Joint FATF/MONEYVAL Experts' meeting and TF Prosecution Workshop, opening remarks by the Minister of Justice of Israel

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As prepared for delivery

By Israel's Minister of Justice, PM Ayelet Shaked

at the Joint FATF/MONEYVAL Experts' meeting and TF Prosecution Workshop

Tel Aviv, Israel, 25 March 2019


Dear Chairs of the RTMG working group, the Chairman of Moneyval, FATF and Moneyval secretariat members, Judges, heads of law enforcement authorities, and all of our distinguished guests.

I would like to thank you all for coming and welcome you to Israel. I would like to thank the FATF and Moneyval for choosing to hold this annual Joint Experts Meeting in Israel.

Unfortunately, we cannot open this special morning without properly addressing this morning's event – an act of terrorism against the citizens of Israel. A rocket was launched this morning from Gaza Strip to Emek Hefer, north to Tel-Aviv. The rocket directly hit a house, with a family asleep in it, including babies.

This is a terrorism act against citizens, and one must understand that such an act cannot occur without significant financing. Launching rockets requires financing. 
Later on I will specifically address the connection between both of today's discussion issues: Terror Financing and Virtual Assets, as well as the fact that Hamas started to fund its operations with Bitcoin and how significant the FATF actions are in that regard.

This morning's event emphasizes the importance of the FATF's role, the importance of the agenda it promotes and the importance of timely action. 
Terrorism is not solely Israel's problem but rather a global issue. Israel is positioned in the front of the global fight against terrorism, since it experiences terrorism acts on daily basis. Currently, Israel would be more than happy to promote the importance of the fight against terror financing, along with all members of the FATF.

The situation of the State of Israel is unique. Despite the fact that the citizens of Israel face terrorism acts on a daily basis, it does not prevent them from thriving. As you all saw yesterday, Israel is a country of innovation, international leadership in many fields, strong economy and the most impressive high-tech and fin-tech industries which are among the best in the world.

We are very delighted and honored to host this meeting in Israel, which also includes two additional special events: the US presidency initiative for Judges and Prosecutors on terror financing prosecution, and the workshop with the Fintech industry on innovative use of advanced technologies.

Hosting this FATF event in Israel a short while after joining this prestigious organization is of a special privilege and pleasure to us.

Becoming a member of this distinguished and important organization has been a national priority for Israel. No doubt that the FATF is one of the most important and influential global organizations. It has significantly changed the global reality, and has had a clear impact on global markets, on economies, on countries and on the global commitment of all counterparts to combat money laundering and terror financing.

In Israel, we attribute a substantial part of the significant progress it has made in the field in recent years to the organization and the important work it spearheads.

I believe that the Israeli case can serve as a good example of the strengths of this organization, as only 16 years ago, Israel was included in the FATF's black list. 

Since then, and significantly due to the ongoing monitoring and pressure of this organization, Israel conducted an extensive revision of its legal system and improved dramatically its overall anti money laundering and terror financing regime, up to the point it has even became one of the most effective countries in the field, as was demonstrated in the recent mutual evaluation report.

The Ministry of Justice is the leading agency in Israel in charge of promoting the combat against money laundering and terror financing. As the Minister of Justice, I am very proud of the extensive work we lead, in accordance with global trends in the field. Israel continuously works on promoting its AML/CFT regime, and is fully committed to complying with the international standards in the field.

We are very glad for the opportunity to host this particular Joint Experts Meeting, which focuses on extremely contemporary and relevant global challenges: Terror financing, Virtual Assets, and Cross Border Conviction-Based Asset Recovery; all are of major international importance.

  1. With respect to the first topic, terror financing: as you all know, terrorism is a long-standing challenge for Israel. Since its establishment, the State of Israel has been forced to face the threats and horrors of terrorism. Long before international efforts to counter Terrorism Financing were initiated, Israel applied a concentrated effort to prevent terrorism, and a strategy for combating Terror Financing has been integral to this effort. Over the years, Israel has become a leader in the field and has developed expertise in countering terror financing as a central aspect of its efforts towards counter-terrorism.

    During my tenure as Minister of Justice, I have given special attention to the national combat against terror. Among others, we have conducted a major revision of the legislation in the field of Counter Terrorism, and have enacted a cutting-edge, comprehensive and unified law, which includes extensive measures regarding terror financing, and the broadening of the definition of a terrorist organization to "satellite organizations" that provide terror organizations with supportive frameworks - including financing aspects.

    It is important to continue the global struggle against terrorism in all aspects, including its financing. Hence, we see great importance in hosting this meeting which focuses on terror financing, and we hope we will be able to continue contributing to the global community in this aspect, and promote effective global practices.

    We would like to thank the US presidency for choosing to specifically promote the discussions on terror financing, and for choosing to dedicate the special Global Prosecutors and Judges Workshop, which takes place here this week as well, to this important issue. We are certain the successful outcomes will serve well all of the member states. 

  2. Virtual assets: The organization’s work in this field is crucial, as alongside the many benefits and opportunities stemming from virtual assets and the progression of financial and technological innovation, it is necessary to ensure that these are not exploited for illegal purposes. There have already been many cases of where these capabilities were taken advantage of and abused, and I’m reassured and glad to know that this week you will further delve in to learning this field.

    In addition, on a personal level, it is important for me to point out the inevitable linkage between terror financing and virtual assets. Virtual assets pose significant risks not only for money laundering, but also for terror financing. Terror organizations have recently started to make use of virtual assets in order to transfer funds for illegal purposes. For example, Hamas, which is a designated terror organization in many countries, has recently published a call to receive contributions via the crypto currency - Bitcoin.
    We believe that in the near future, the global community will face the growing trend of terror organizations using crypto currencies and virtual assets. It is therefore extremely important that the FATF will work towards mapping, understanding and regulating this field. 

  3. Cross Border Conviction-Based Asset Recovery – Thirdly, there is no doubt that this matter is a challenge for all states, and in order to ensure that crime is deemed as not worthwhile by criminals, their assets must be recovered, wherever they may be around the world. Global cooperation in this sphere is critical and the central key for success.

In sum, I would like to thank you all for coming to Israel and for your esteemed, professional work.

I would like to thank the FATF's US Presidency, Moneyval Chairman, the FATF and Moneyval's Secretariat, for their time and efforts in arranging and coordinating this important meeting, and hope it will be successful, fruitful and enjoyable meeting. 

I would like to thank our excellent team from IMPA, headed by Shlomit Wagman, for all their hard work in organizing this event and for representing Israel in the FATF.