The Albanian parliament’s Laws Commission has started examining proposed amendments to anti-money laundering laws at a time the country languishes on the FATF grey list and is pursuing a controversial fiscal amnesty initiative.
Albania was put on the FATF (Financial Action Task Force)* grey list in 2020 as it lacks adequate measures to counter money laundering and terrorist financing.
But changes to the law “On the prevention of money laundering and financing of terrorism” have been tabled and are being discussed by the ruling Socialist Party.
Changes include changing the name from the General Directorate of Money Laundering Prevention to the Financial Intelligence Agency with a status separate from that of the civil service and a new salary scale comparable to that of the judicial system.
The suggestions were presented by MP Klevis Xhoxhi, who said the agency should be separate from the civil service as it has a very different function, and there have been difficulties in recruiting skilled and experienced staff. He also expressed concerns that “The level of salaries should be related to the level of bodies in the justice system, the reference point being the salary of the director general of the National Bureau of Investigation, He also added that in the last three years, 35% of employees had left due to low salaries.
Other changes include provisions facilitating investigations into the use of cryptocurrencies, the exchange of different currencies and the tracking of IPs where such transactions are made. The Financial Intelligence Agency would have the right to request data and documentation from telecom operators to enable them to identify subscribers and customers. Operators would be obliged to respond to the request in 10 days and even shorter periods in an urgent case or risk penalties.
The legal changes will be passed for approval after considering the recommendations of the Council of Ministers and consideration in other parliamentary committees.
The IMF also cautioned against the proposed fiscal amnesty, given governance and money laundering risks.
Under the proposal, any foreign citizen or Albanian can deposit up to €2 million in non-declared money into the Albanian banking system while enjoying legal immunity and a 5-10% tax. A previous version of the law was slammed by the IMF and EU, while this version has been subject to tense discussions between the government, the EU, and various diplomatic missions in Tirana.
The main concern from international stakeholders is that criminals will use the scheme to launder the proceeds of crime, such as drug and human trafficking, without fear of penalty, prison, or any consequence. The government says this will not be the case and adequate measures will be in place to avoid such instances.
According to the 2023 FATF review, Albania must revise the draft law as the last publicly available version does not comply with FATF standards and practices.
* The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) leads global action to tackle money laundering, terrorist and proliferation financing. The FATF researches how money is laundered and terrorism is funded, promotes global standards to mitigate the risks, and assesses whether countries are taking effective action. ( https://www.fatf-gafi.org/en/countries.html)