As every MLRO can recite in his sleep, there are four elements to money laundering risk analysis: customer risk, product risk, delivery channel risk, and jurisdiction risk. Only by looking at all four of these can you come up with a realistic assessment of the money laundering risk of a particular relationship or transaction. And of the four, the one with which the MLRO gets most external help is the last, jurisdiction. For there is no shortage of lists of countries: good ones, bad ones, corrupt ones, reliable ones, ones with “critical deficiencies in their AML/CFT regimes”, ones that are improving, ones that are worsening… it’s dizzying. Once upon a time, when I was a naive and optimistic young AML practitioner, I bought a large map of the world and a box of coloured map pins, and started labelling up the countries, changing their colours as they scooted up and (more frequently) down the scale of AML respectability. Readers, it was like being in one of those war movies, in an airless bunker somewhere under London, trying to keep track of who’s on our side and who isn’t – but without the welcome distraction of handsome men in uniform and moustaches. I soon gave up.
On 18 October 2013, the FATF updated its list of naughty countries, and then last week the CFATF announced that it is particularly upset about Belize and Guyana. The FATF list was echoed without change in the UK by HM Treasury, and then echoed with local flavouring in Guernsey. And now we hear that on 3 December 2013 Transparency International will issue the 2013 version of its Corruption Perceptions Index. (I swear they have a mole in my office; CPI updates are always announced the day after I have prepared about three thousand slides for various clients, covering the previous index in great detail.) For the MLRO who is trying to abide by guidance which requires him to “be aware of lists and warnings issued by domestic and international bodies” (or some such wording), it can mean days trawling through all these lists in a giant “compare and contrast” exercise, interspersed with nights waking in a cold sweat in case he has missed one. I understand why we can’t, I really do, but wouldn’t it be lovely if we could have a central list-making body?