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Meeting anti-money laundering obligations in the Dominican Republic

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Meeting anti-money laundering obligations in the Dominican Republic

Contributed by Jay Ryan, Executive Vice President for Accuity

The new compliance obligations placed on non-financial businesses are stringent, but help is at hand.

Last summer, tens of thousands of people flooded onto the streets of Santo Domingo, dressed mostly in green. The Marcha Verde protests were a clear indication of the strength of public feeling about the Dominican Republic’s history of corruption in both the private and public sector. But the tide is turning. Change is underway.

Despite an economy that is among the largest in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic (DR) has struggled to assert itself on the international financial stage because of poor regulatory controls. A 2014 assessment by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs said that ‘corruption, the presence of international illicit trafficking cartels, a large informal economy, and a fragile formal economy make the DR vulnerable to money laundering and terrorism financing threats’.

New regulations introduced in 2017, though, are changing the landscape. The new Anti-money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act came into effect on 1 June 2017, replacing the existing Anti-money Laundering Act and bringing DR into line with financial crime legislation already in place in many developed nations. The new Act is based on the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF – the G7 organization set up to develop an international response to the growing threat of money laundering) and will, it is hoped, help to greatly improve the country’s access to foreign credit and the support of international organizations.

Jay Ryan

Jay Ryan

Implementation of the Act is now well underway, with the full support of President Danilo Medina. In January 2018 President Medina urged government officials to work to achieve a satisfactory evaluation from the International Financial Action Group of Latin America, which is tasked with coordinating anti-money laundering efforts in the region.

The new law introduces more stringent money laundering and terrorist financing regulation by improving the due diligence and data transparency around financial transactions and involving a wider group of professionals in the fight against financial crime. It also establishes a number of government agencies as competent authorities responsible for the detection and prevention of money laundering.

The law considerably broadens the activities that are defined as money laundering, which now include tax evasion, counterfeiting, copyright infringement and market manipulation. Critically, the new law also extends anti-money laundering (AML) compliance requirements that have until now only applied to financial institutions to a far wider group of non-financial professions. This includes:

  • Savings and loan cooperatives
  • Lotteries and sports betting companies
  • Factoring companies
  • Pawn houses
  • Traders in vehicles, metals, precious stones and jewelry
  • Construction companies
  • Real estate brokers
  • Lawyers, notaries and accountants who participate in a wide range of activities on behalf of their clients, including real estate transactions.

These professionals are now expected to meet far higher standards of compliance than has ever been seen in the DR before. All entities that fall under the Act are required to introduce and maintain a compliance program that includes detailed policies and procedures to:

  • Evaluate the money laundering and terrorist financing risks in their business
  • Manage and mitigate that risk effectively
  • Carry out detailed due diligence on their clients
  • Monitor the financial activities of their clients, and
  • Report suspicious activity to the Financial Analysis Unit within five days of the event.

Customer due diligence is one of the biggest challenges introduced by the Act. The new law specifies that due diligence of a customer or client means establishing and verifying their identity – and if someone is acting on behalf of a client, their identity must also be verified, as well as their authorization to act for the client. If the client is a company, the ultimate beneficial owner must also be identified. In all cases, this monitoring of clients and client activity must be continuous and regularly updated. Merely asking the client for this information will not satisfy the Act’s requirements – it makes clear that the data must be verified from ‘reliable and independent sources’.

Few of the professions affected by the new Act were prepared for its sudden implementation last summer. The penalties for failing to comply with the Act are severe – fines of millions of pesos and, in some cases, imprisonment.

Meeting the full requirements of the Act will take extensive planning, the establishment of clear policies and procedures, and on-going training of staff; and the Dominican Republic has already taken some proactive steps to progress in these areas. In recent months, the government has consulted Accuity on how to achieve best practices in financial crime compliance and our subject matter experts have provided a series of practical recommendations. The good news is that there are excellent automated systems available that effectively and efficiently screen customers, accounts and transactions.

Firco Compliance Link is ideal for businesses and professionals who want to keep their business flowing and keep costs down, while being confident that they are meeting their regulatory obligations. It can be installed on site or as part of a SaaS solution, providing a consolidated view of all account, transaction and trade activity. It can be configured to meet individual risk appetite and creates the clear audit trail that regulators expect.

Alternatively, the online screening option, Firco Online Compliance, is a fast and easy-to-use solution that automates Know-Your-Customer checks using the latest verified data. With comprehensive data on more than three million entities in 250 jurisdictions and over 1,300 enforcement agencies, these solutions allow businesses in all regulated fields to quickly and effectively meet their obligations under the new Act.

There is no doubt that the new requirements that financial and non-financial businesses face are stringent and will require work to implement effectively. But the new Act marks a significant step in DR’s history. Having worked a long time in advising governments in the area, we feel confident the government has the right spirit to drive forward the development of a trustworthy and well-regulated financial environment that will bring DR, and its businesses, onto the international stage.

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England soccer star Rashford nets younger buyers for Burberry

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England soccer star Rashford nets younger buyers for Burberry 1

By Sarah Young

LONDON (Reuters) – Burberry stuck to its full-year goals on Wednesday after a media campaign fronted by high-profile English soccer star and social justice advocate Marcus Rashford drew a younger clientele to the British luxury brand.

Higher full-price sales would boost annual margins and Asian demand remained strong, Burberry said, while warning that it could suffer more sales disruption from COVID-19 lockdowns.

Manchester United striker Rashford, 23, has won plaudits for his campaign to help ensure that poorer children do not go hungry with schools closed during the pandemic.

A first coronavirus wave last year cut Burberry’s sales by as much as 45% before a bounce back on strong demand in mainland China and South Korea, which continued in the last few months.

Shares in Burberry were up 5% to 1,825 pence at 0905 GMT, with Citi analysts saying that improved sales quality from fewer markdowns would drive full-year consensus upgrades.

Burberry’s 9% sales decline in its third quarter was worse than the 6% fall in the second, and the company said that 15% of stores were currently closed and 36% operating with restrictions as a result of measures to curb COVID-19’s spread.

“We expect trading will remain susceptible to regional disruptions as we close the financial year,” Burberry said, adding that it was confident of rebounding when the pandemic eases given the brand’s resonance with customers.

In the third quarter, comparable store sales in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa declined 37%, hit by shops shut in lockdowns and a lack of tourists visiting Europe, but in the same period, it posted sales growth of 11% in Asia Pacific.

Burberry said that Britain’s new relationship with the European Union would cause headwinds, warning of a modest increase in costs to comply with new rules and also the impact of an end to a scheme for VAT refunds for non-EU tourists.

This would make Britain a less attractive destination for luxury shopping when tourism returns after the pandemic, Burberry said, adding that it would try to mitigate the effect.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Kate Holton, James Davey and Alexander Smith)

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Alibaba’s Jack Ma makes first live appearance in three months in online meet

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Alibaba's Jack Ma makes first live appearance in three months in online meet 2

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma met 100 rural teachers in China via a live video meeting on Wednesday morning, in the businessman’s first appearance since October, triggering a sharp jump in the Hong Kong listed shares of the e-commerce giant.

Social media speculation over the whereabouts of China’s highest-profile entrepreneur swirled this month after news reports that he missed the final episode of a TV show featuring him as a judge, amid a regulatory clampdown by Beijing on his sprawling business empire.

Ma had not appeared in public since Oct. 24, where he blasted China’s regulatory system in a speech at a Shanghai forum that set him on a collision course with officials, leading to suspension of a $37-billion IPO of Alibaba’s financial affiliate Ant Group.

Tianmu News, a news portal under Zhejiang Online, which is backed by the provincial Zhejiang government, first reported that Ma had met with the teachers via a live video conference on Wednesday.

The Jack Ma Foundation said that Ma participated in the online ceremony of the annual Rural Teacher Initiative event on Wednesday. Alibaba Group also confirmed that Jack Ma attended the online event.

Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listed shares jumped more than 6% after the reports of his reappearance, compared with a 0.64% rise in the Hang Seng index.

Ma’s public appearance comes as Alibaba plans to raise at least $5 billion through the sale of a U.S. dollar-denominated bond this month. Reuters reported the bond proceeds could reach $8 billion, which the e-commerce leader was likely to use for general corporate expenditure.

Alibaba is also the target of an antitrust investigation launched last month by Chinese authorities, who have in recent months accelerated a crackdown on anticompetitive behaviour in China’s booming internet space.

In the 50-second video, Ma, dressed in a navy pullover, spoke directly to the camera from a room with grey marble walls and a striped carpet. It was not clear from the video or the Tianmu News article where he was speaking from.

He addressed teachers receiving the Jack Ma Rural Teachers Award, who in previous years would have attended a ceremony organised by the Jack Ma Foundation in the Chinese seaside city of Sanya.

“We cannot meet in Sanya due to the epidemic,” he said in the speech, which did not discuss his whereabouts. “When the epidemic is over, we must find time to make up for everyone’s trip to Sanya, and then we will meet again!”

Xie Pu, founder of Chinese tech website Techie Crab, said the media and public had over-interpreted Ma’s move to lay low and that his step away from the public spotlight should not have been seen as a problem for Alibaba.

“We shouldn’t over-interpret his reappearance into public view this time, said Xie Pu, founder of Chinese tech website Techie Crab. “Alibaba still has a good governance structure — there are partners and a board of directors.”

(Reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai, Kane Wu and Sumeet Chatterjee in Hong Kong, Yingzhi Yang in Beijing; Editing by Tom Hogue and Gerry Doyle)

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ComplyAdvantage Releases State Of Financial Crime Report For 2021

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ComplyAdvantage Releases State Of Financial Crime Report For 2021 3

Designed as an must-have strategic roadmap for compliance teams, the comprehensive report covers financial crime insights related to fraud, cyber, and money laundering, the rise of crypto,

and the ever-changing sanctions landscape

ComplyAdvantage, a global data technology company transforming financial crime detection, today announced the availability of the firm’s much anticipated report The State Of Financial Crime 2021 Designed as a strategic guide for global compliance teams, the report lays out the many emerging threats that governments and financial institutions will face in 2021, along with prescriptive recommendations for implementing best compliance practices for combating financial crimes.

The research on which The State Of Financial Crime 2021 report is based was administered in November and December 2020. Interviews were conducted with 600 C-suite and senior compliance decision makers across North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. The respondents represented enterprise banking, investments, crypto, insurance organizations, and fintechs.

One of the biggest challenges that compliance teams face is keeping current on the rapidly evolving regulations, and the advances of criminal behavior while balancing their organizations’ risk appetite.   Risk indicators are also becoming harder to spot as the amount of information available grows exponentially and the speed of change gathers pace.  This is why ComplyAdvantage has dedicated the company’s resources and  anti-money laundering (AML) expertise in order to help compliance executives mitigate regulatory risks related to the most extreme AML financial crimes.

The State Of Financial Crime 2021 delves into the most important financial crime trends that Compliance Officers are most concerned with in the coming year.  Specifically, these trends include increased fraud related to COVID-19 relief; risk vulnerabilities related to inconsistencies in global AML and counter financing of terrorism (CFT) system; the growth in sophistication of computer and mobile-enabled cybercrimes via payment systems; the continued use of sanctions as a tool of first resort and more.

A sample of key insights from the report include:

  • SARs filing was on the rise with 74% of respondents saying they filed more SARS in 2020 than the previous year
  • 93% of respondents stated that real-time AML risk data would improve their compliance operations
  • Cybersecurity and third party risk management were noted as organizations’ biggest compliance-related pain points in 2020. With 54% of respondents ranking cybersecurity as a top pain point.
  • 62% of respondents plan on upgrading their legacy systems in 2021.
  • 54% of respondents plan on replacing or upgrading their transaction monitoring system in 2021.

“Due to the massive economic, political and social disruption brought about by COVID-19, international crime syndicates, rogue nations, global terrorists and cyber-criminals have become increasingly more aggressive, “said Charles Delingpolefounder and CEO of ComplyAdvantage.  “Therefore, we felt it was imperative to prepare Compliance Officers and their teams for the potential onslaught of financial crimes driven by nefarious organizations.

Already the preferred choice of some of the world’s largest banks, enterprises and           high-growth fintechs, ComplyAdvantage uses machine learning and natural language processing to help regulated organizations manage their risk obligations and prevent financial crime. The company’s proprietary database is derived from millions of data points that provide dynamic, real-time insights across sanctions, watchlists, politically exposed persons, and negative news. This reduces dependence on manual review processes and legacy databases by up to 80% and improves how companies screen and monitor clients and transactions.

ComplyAdvantage releases The State Of Financial Crime 2021 a comprehensive report covering financial crime trends related to fraud, cyber, and money laundering.  #compliance #financialcrime #AML #antimoneylaundering #cybercrime

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