Egypt’s parliament on Monday approved new amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Law 80/2002.
Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said the amendments were revised by the State Council, the Higher Council for Judges, the Central Bank of Egypt, the Financial Control Authority, Military Justice, and the board of the Anti-Money Laundering Unit.
According to Abdel-Aal, the idea behind the new batch of amendments to the anti-money laundering law aim to dry up new sources of funding for terrorists and organised crime.
“As you might note, these amendments come just two weeks after we approved amendments to the anti-terror law and terrorist entities law, and all seek to target terrorist movements which resort to new forms of money laundering activities to commit their crimes,” Abdel-Aal said.
Abdel-Aal said Egypt was one of the first countries to take measures against money laundering. The policy began in 1980 and several measures had since been taken to crack down on this kind of dangerous criminal activity, Abdel-Aal said.
The amendments come at a time when Egypt’s legal framework against money laundering and terrorism financing has become subject to review by the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENA FATF), added Abdel-Aal, noting that a FATF delegation visited Egypt last week and reviewed the latest legislative action in Egypt against money laundering.
FATF is the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog.
Bahaaeddin Abu Shoka, chairperson of parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee and leader of the opposition Wafd Party, told MPs that the amendments, approved by the committee on 2 March, generally aim to upgrade the law in terms of widening the scope of the definition of money laundering to include the selling and smuggling of oil, natural resources, securities and cryptocurrency, among other assets.
The amendments will also toughen penalties in the form of a seven-year prison sentence and that hefty fines will be imposed on those convicted of laundering any such assets, Abu Shoka said.
A report prepared by parliament’s Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee said amendments to the 16-article law are part of a wider effort to crack down on terrorism funding.
The report explains that three main articles of the anti-money laundering law will be amended.
Article 16 will be amended to give greater powers to the Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorism Funding Unit, with the objective of expediting the necessary measures in this respect, primarily freezing the assets and cash of those suspected of funding terrorist crimes, the report said.
Article 18 will be amended to make it compulsory for local authorities and the anti-money laundering unit to strengthen cooperation and exchange information with international organisations focused on fighting money laundering and the funding of terrorism.
Article 9 will be amended to require the anti-money laundering unit to publish up-to-date and comprehensive statistics and figures on its activities and operations in tracking the illegal funding of terrorist crimes.
MPs said they warmly welcome the new amendments.
MP Osama Sharshar said the amendments come at the right time to target “the black schemes and conspiracies of terrorist militias at the local and foreign levels… These militias resort to laundering money to fund their terrorist crimes that aim to disrupt the national economies of certain countries,” Sharshar said, charging that “some of these militias also receive money from foreign intelligence agencies to spread terror in the Middle East and North Africa for political reasons.
Sharshar said the new amendments are in line with the most up-to-date international guidelines that aim to safeguard national economies against money laundering and organised crime.
Majority speaker Abdel-Hadi Al-Qasabi said money laundering has become a major source of funding for terrorist activities in recent years.
“These amendments target these crimes and implement Egypt’s commitments in line with the Middle East and North Africa Financial Task Force,” Al-Qasabi said.
Adel Nasser, parliamentary spokesperson of the Future of Homeland Party, said several reports showed that 80 per cent of terrorist crimes in 2018 and 2019 were funded by money laundering operations. “We saw how terrorist militias stole oil revenues to spend on their members and commit their crimes,”
Nasser said, adding that “in the past these militias used to attack jewellery shops and steal their money and they have fatwas [religious edicts] that claim their crimes do not violate Islam.”
Nasser said terrorist militias in Libya used illegal trade in oil to fund their operations against tourists in Egypt. An Islamic State affiliate in North Sinai claimed responsibility for downing a Russian passenger plane in Sinai in November 2015, Nasser said, adding that “these operations sought to destroy the country’s national economy.”
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 March, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly