I’m a big fan of the Financial Action Task Force – I even call them “eff-ay-tee-eff” as I think this is more respectful than “fat-eff”. But dealing with them, even at my lowly level of simply reading whatever they publish on their website, requires the acquisition of a new vocabulary. They don’t just have meetings – they have “plenary meetings” which generate “outcomes”. But perhaps the area in which the FATF is most mealy-mouthed is in its expression of displeasure.
In the outcomes from their plenary meeting in Paris last week, they updated their list of what they rather coyly call “jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies regarding anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism”. They have struggled with this before – do you remember the Millennium-marking list of “non-cooperative countries and territories”? It even sounds a bit jolly, being an NCCT. I do sympathise with the FATF: when a friend’s toddler recently bit my thumb, I made some craven comment about his liveliness and healthy teeth. What I should have done, however, is tell it like it is: he’s a little devil who should be muzzled.
And so, as Ghana, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania and Thailand join the merry band of jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies, please can we tell it like it is? This is not a list of non-cooperatives or deficients, but a black list of naughty countries. Sugar-coating it does no-one any favours, and the shock might actually get speedier results. The media in those five countries aren’t fooled: not one report about this mentions “deficiencies” in the headline, while the word “blacklist” appears remarkably often.