I’m not very good with international politics – I get terribly confused. What I need is flowcharts and colour-coding, so that I can tell who to cheer and who to boo. All I really know about Ukraine, for instance, is that (a) I shouldn’t call it the Ukraine, even though that sounds right to me, (b) it was on the FATF list of dodgy countries for a while (but removed in October 2011: “Ukraine has largely met its commitments in its Action Plan regarding the strategic deficiencies that the FATF had identified in February 2010. Ukraine is therefore no longer subject to FATF’s monitoring process under its on-going global AML/CFT compliance process.”), and (c) this 60-second BBC film is a handy explanation of what’s going on. Political unrest has a habit of spilling over into unintended consequences, and on 4 May 2014 we saw this in action.
The Financial Action Task Force holds three plenary meetings a year: two in its home town of Paris, and then the third – the final one of each presidency (which runs June to June) in the home country of that year’s FATF president. Currently in the hot seat – probably a large velvet-cushioned throne, not unlike the Beckham wedding chairs – is Vladimir Nechaev of Russia. Having put in the hours in Paris – and we all know how the French can look down a Gallic nose at one – he was doubtless looking forward to welcoming his colleagues to a glamorous bean-feast (blini-feast?) in Moscow in June. And then, at the beginning of this month, and all thanks to those pesky protesters in Ukraine, and the subsequent sense-of-humour failure of his Russian masters, poor Mr Nechaev had to cancel his party. Apparently a note sent to all invitees said: “It has become apparent that it would be difficult to ensure full attendance of FATF delegations at the scheduled plenary in Moscow but there is widespread support for the work of the FATF to continue uninterrupted.” And so, instead of kicking up their heels in Moscow, the FATF-ers will be meeting once more in Paris. If the experience of the Tolmachevy Sisters in the recent Eurovision Song Contest is anything to go by, Mr Nechaev should probably not hold out too much hope for a large farewell hamper of goodies and tears of regret; indeed, he might be best advised simply to leave the office key in Mr Wilkins’s locker and just call it a night.