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Lao customs step up money laundering campaign

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Lorries line up to cross the Laos-Boten International Customs Checkpoint in the northern Lao province of Luang Namtha. AFP

Lao customs step up money laundering campaign

Informative banners have been installed at border crossings to inform travellers about Lao regulations regarding the possession and transportation of currency.

The initiative is part of a nationwide awareness-raising campaign conducted by the Anti-Money Laundering Intelligence Office (AMLIO) and Lao Customs in partnership with the Institute for Legal Support and Technical Assistance (ILSTA).

Chief of the Investigation and Anti-Tax Evasion Division of the Customs Department at the Ministry of Finance, Phonesavanh Thammasith; Deputy Director General of the Anti-Money Laundering Intelligence Office of the Bank of the Lao PDR, Chindanmay Vilayhongs; President of ILSTA Richard Philippart; and Programme Officer at ILSTA, Keith Farquharson handed over the banners to customs authorities.

ILSTA’s collaboration with the Anti-Money Laundering Intelligence Office and Lao Customs focuses on the development of effective national legislation, policies, and enforcement on money laundering.

Increasing awareness amongst Lao officials, besides improving both compliance with international standards and the enforcement of Lao regulations, are key to supporting the national authorities to establish a sound and well-functioning legislative framework on money laundering in Laos.

One of ILSTA’s flagship activities is to support the Lao authorities through a nationwide awareness campaign in an attempt to inform Lao nationals and foreigners passing through airports and land border crossings about anti-money laundering legislation.

In particular, this involves the obligation to declare the transport of cash and other valuables with a value of more than $12,000.

The Regulation on the Declaration of Cash, Precious metals and Bearer Negotiable Instruments While Entering and Exiting Laos was issued in 2015 to expand upon other legislation.

These were Article 33 dubbed the Declaration of cash, precious metals and bearer negotiable instruments at border crossings, and Article 34 on Examination by customs officers at border crossings under the Law on Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Financing of Terrorism.

The ultimate objective is to reinforce implementation of this law.

According to the regulation, passengers with cash, precious metals, or bearer negotiable instruments with a value of 100 million kip ($11,500) or more entering or exiting Laos must declare these items to a customs official using a customs declaration form issued by the Ministry of Finance. Customs officials will then review, count and ascertain the reality and consistency of passengers’ declarations.

Ahead of the mutual evaluation process of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which will begin in 2020, Laos is putting a great deal of effort into law enforcement, in addition to awareness-raising campaigns on the new regulations concerning anti-money laundering.

Recommendations issued by the FATF define criminal justice and regulatory measures that should be implemented to combat the issue of money laundering.

The FATF Recommendations are recognised as global anti‐money laundering and counter‐terrorist financing standards, FATF member states, like Laos, being bound to take them into consideration while adjusting their national legal instruments and policies.

In particular, FATF Recommendation 32 focuses on cross border declaration or disclosure, with the objective to detect and prevent illicit cross-border transport of cash and bearer negotiable instruments.

These recommendations aim to reduce the risk of money laundering through the physical movement of money.

The initiative was made possible with the kind support of the Ministry of Finance of Luxembourg and the Canadian government. Vientiane times

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