African countries told fighting illicit financial flows requires ethics, transparency and integrity

Dr Ines Chaieb

African countries continue to lose significant amounts of money equal to development aid, to illicit financial flows, and efforts to stem the outflows are being made. However, countries have been told that to fight illicit financial flows (IFFs), they need ethics, transparency and integrity.

Making a presentation at the Pan-African Conference on Illicit Financial Flows and Taxation in Tunis, Tunisia, Dr Ines Chaieb of the University of Geneva said for the fight against IFFs to be effective, there is need for transparency and engagement with governments. She said disclosure, transparency and data and measurement are all important in the efforts.

“Fighting IFFs requires ethics, transparency and integrity,” she said, emphasising that good governance is key in the fight.

She called on African governments to make the institutions of governance stronger and more credible to influence perception.

Dr Chaieb said to influence perception about governments, they need to be more credible and they must also enhance cooperation and harmonise regulations.

Speaking earlier at the opening of the conference, Nabil Ammar, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Migration and Tunisians Abroad of Tunisia called on international partners to reduce hypocrisy when talking about justice and transparency and urged them to support capacity building on the continent.

Mr Ammar expressed Tunisia’s deep commitment to working with other countries in Africa towards security.

“Tunisia, which engaged with its African brothers in resisting colonialism and racial discrimination, in supporting peace, security and stability, and in supporting development efforts, is determined today, more than ever, to continue working to address the multiple challenges facing the continent, which is a fateful battle no less important than the struggle that was successfully waged for the independence of our countries, which must be fully exploited,” he said.

Mr Ammar noted that the conference was being held in difficult and complex global and regional situations that have negatively affected the ability of Africa to mobilize the necessary funds to advance its development efforts in the face of the continuing inability of existing international institutions to provide appropriate solutions for developing countries in general and countries of the continent in particular.

He said the concept of illicit financial flows lacks two basic elements: First, the lack of an agreed upon and approved definition of its scope due to the multiplicity and complexity of related activities. Secondly, the lack of accurate statistical data on the value and volume of illicit financial flows.

“I hope that your conference will succeed in providing appropriate answers to these questions and that you will reach a strategy that enables African countries to address this scourge that deprives them of benefiting from an important part of their national wealth,” he said.

He stated that the Global Financial Integrity (GFI) has estimated that developing countries lose approximately the equivalent of one trillion US dollars annually through illicit financial flows, and this number is equivalent to almost the amount of development aid to developing countries.

He also said that a study by the GFI showed that Tunisia suffers a loss of more than $1.2 billion annually to illicit financial flows associated with tax evasion, corruption, organized crime, terrorism, human trafficking and money laundering.

“This underscores the need to develop stronger policies and mechanisms, both criminal and civil, in order to confiscate and recover assets linked to corruption more effectively, strengthen laws and institutions concerned with combating corruption and money laundering, as well as to make more transparent the public budgets of countries,” he said.

Sharing Tunisia’s experiences, he said the country is working to take various steps to combat illicit financial flows.

“In 2003, Tunisia passed the first law to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism, which allows the country to comply with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing standards through the establishment of the Tunisian Commission for Financial Analysis and the official financial intelligence unit headed by the Central Bank of Tunisia. In 2015, Tunisia passed a new law to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, the text of which is consistent with the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force and resolutions of the United Nations Security Council,” he said.

He also said Tunisia has ratified the most important international agreements and treaties and regional efforts to combat illicit financial flows, adding that the country’s laws grant broad investigative powers to investigative judges, as well as to the National Anti-Corruption Authority and the Financial Analysis Commission, to track, freeze, and seize funds derived from illegal means.

In parallel with the efforts made to develop national legislation and strengthen the necessary mechanisms to combat and deter illicit financial flows, Tunisia works to support coordination and cooperation with brotherly and friendly countries and with competent regional and international organizations and institutions to track, freeze and seize looted assets across borders. It also stresses the need to support international cooperation at the bilateral and multilateral levels, he said.

The conference held June 26 to 28, 2024, was under the theme: “Africa’s Tax Agenda in Combatting Illicit Financial Flows: From Words to Action”.

By Emmanuel K Dogbevi, in Tunis, Tunisia

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