By M. Ghazanfar Ali Khan & Omar Al-Zobidy
Tuesday 14 May 2002
Last Update 14 May 2002 12:00 am
RIYADH, 14 May — Saudi Arabia has categorically denied freezing of any bank accounts, either of individuals or corporate entities, on suspicion of money laundering or terrorist financing since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
While most Arab states can boast of a clean track record, Israel figures prominently among 18 countries blacklisted by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force for laundering money and for defying FATF’s recommendations and guidelines, according to speakers at the opening session of a seminar on financial crimes.
"This Jewish state has not been complying with the 40 recommendations made by FATF," they said.
The two-day seminar on "prevention and detection of fraud, economic crime and money laundering" was organized by the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry. It was officially opened by Muhammad Al-Jasser, vice governor of Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency.
Asked about implementation of anti-money laundering measures and about misleading reports published in a section of press about the freezing of some suspect bank accounts in the Kingdom, Al-Jasser clarified that "not even a single bank account has been frozen in Saudi Arabia".
In fact, the Kingdom is monitoring a list of bank accounts in different countries provided by the United Nations, he said.
Al-Jasser said the Saudi banking and financial institutions of Saudi Arabia are complying with all 40 recommendations of the FATF.
Ali Mohammed Al-Ghaith, SAMA’s director for banking inspection, insurance and finance, said all countries should be asked to implement recommendations of FATF on a uniform basis. He said SAMA stepped up efforts to check money laundering and has established specialized committees to financial crimes.
SAMA has prepared a guidebook containing rules, regulations and instructions on the fight against money laundering. This is in addition to creation of a strong anti-money laundering unit at SAMA consisting of six inspectors, who are adequately trained to investigate all types of money laundering operations.
The Saudi central bank has trained some 600 personnel to combat money laundering, said the official, adding that the financial institutions have been directed to report any suspected transactions to the enforcement agencies. At the same time, all individuals and institutions have been advised to retain records of financial transactions for at least 10 years for verification purposes.
Speaking on the occasion Abdul Rahman Al-Jeraisy, chairman of Riyadh chamber, estimated the amount involved money laundering annually at $1 trillion. This accounted for 15 percent of the total international trade.