An awareness campaign communicating the details of two new anti-money laundering laws launched by several ministries has been underway ahead of Cambodia’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF) evaluation, in which the Kingdom is expected to be removed from the organisation’s money laundering “grey list”.

The expected removal of Cambodia from the list comes after the Kingdom began enforcing two new laws in accordance with recommendations made by the organisation. Working groups co-chaired by senior government officials have been tasked with implementing several “Immediate Outcomes” (IO) to improve the efficiency of detecting and preventing money laundering in the country.

Minister of Justice Koeut Rith and National Police chief Neth Savoeun co-chaired a meeting on March 10 of Working Group 3 of the Ad-hoc Sub-Commission to implement an action plan devised by the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering to review two Immediate Outcomes: IO.7, which focuses on investigation, prosecution and sanctioning, and IO.8, which aims to improve the efficiency of the confiscation of proceeds as well as instruments of crime.

The justice ministry said the meeting was held to “review and discuss the enforcement of IO.7 and IO.8 and to prepare the ninth-round report that will be submitted to the FATF”.

Describing the working group’s task as “complex”, the co-chairs laid out an urgent action plan requesting senior officials and their institutions to “mobilise their forces immediately so that anti-money laundering operation is carried out efficiently and effectively, ahead of the report being submitted to the FATF,” the ministry said.

Alongside the action plan, another team in the sub-commission released the outcomes of their activities to combat money laundering and the financing of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The team, Working Group 2, issued a separate press statement on March 10 announcing their leading role in implementing IO.11, which pertains to financial sanctions.

The press statement noted that the group had organised workshops touching on “the roles of monetary entities in enforcing all resolutions made by the UN Security Council, the duties of reporting and non-reporting entities, the process of asset freezing, punishments that could be applied on reporting entities, and reporting forms”.

The workshops also explained the content of asset freezing decisions No 11 and 12 issued by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in November 2020, which froze the assets of individuals and entities listed in the UN Security Council Resolution as continuing to engage in transactions with North Korea and Iran – countries which have had sanctions imposed on them, the statement said.

It said sanctions against the two countries were “Standing Orders” which are valid permanently unless the court annuls them.

The working group also collaborated with the National Television of Cambodia (TVK) to broadcast a roundtable discussion on March 9 to raise public awareness on the issue.

Further increasing enforcement of anti-money laundering laws in the Kingdom was the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for information exchange between the Cambodia Financial Intelligence Unit (CFIU) and the Ministry of Environment.

CFIU chief Say Sam Ath said the MoU “reflects the start of the connection and cooperation between the two institutions on efforts to prevent money laundering and proliferation of WMDs in the environment sector”.

“This is proof that we are pushing forward local domestic cooperation, and motivating relevant authorities to search for, prevent and combat money laundering and proliferation of WMDs,” she said.

In February, the government refuted an “unfounded report” by a popular North Korean monitoring website that accused Cambodia of permitting the state’s intelligence operations and illegal economic activities in the Kingdom.

The piece, which ran under the title “North Korean spy ran hotels, casinos and travel agency in Cambodia: UN report”, was published in NK News on February 15. The foreign ministry has vehemently rejected the contents of the article.

“Cambodia has complied with all UN Security Council resolutions, shut down all businesses and bank accounts of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [in Cambodia] and halted granting of work authorisation for workers from DPRK,” the ministry said, using the official name of North Korea.

CFIU deputy chief Ngeth Sovannarith said Cambodia’s membership of the UN means it has to follow the organisation’s decision regarding financing of the proliferation of WMDs.

“All member states, including Cambodia, have to freeze assets without any delay and prior notice against all properties which have been linked to individual or entities listed [by the UN],” he said.