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Paris Watchdog Group Assesses World Money Laundering - 2004-07-02

An international watchdog group has praised several countries for cracking down on money laundering. But the annual report of the Financial Action Task Force warns of worrying new trends in financing crime.

The Paris-based task force says it has removed Guatemala from its blacklist of countries that have failed to crack down on money laundering and other forms of illegal financing.

Task Force President Claes Norgren describes concrete improvements undertaken by a number of countries in battling the flow of illegal funds.

But six countries, the Cook Islands, Indonesia, Burma, Nauru, Nigeria and the Philippines, remain on the task force's list of non-compliant countries. Mr. Norgren said the group would continue to impose special sanctions against Burma until it improves its system of scrutiny and countermeasures against illegal financial flows.

He also said the group was trying to crack down on cash couriers - people used by terrorist groups and organized crime to smuggle hard currency across borders. "There needs to be more work done. This is a problem that has grown in importance and we must respond to that," he said.

Created in 1989, the 31-member Financial Action Task Force initially concentrated on money laundering and organized crime. But following the September 11 attacks in the United States, it has devoted much attention to terrorist financing as well.

Mr. Norgren said Africa is one of several problem regions. "As regards the problems in Africa, they are widespread problems and the need for taking further measures in the region is very clear," he said.

He noted that only one African state, South Africa, is a member of the task force.

He singled out Russia and Saudi Arabia for praise. Saudi Arabia is working with other Middle Eastern and North African countries to create a local watchdog organization, in a region where terrorist financing is of particular concern. The task force is also trying to coordinate with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to better monitor and crack down on illegal financing.