International Law and Standards

The principal initatives in the development of international law and standards involve the work of the United Nations (UN) and the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF).

Key instruments

In anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT), the key instruments are:

While the FATF Recommendations do not have the same status as international law instruments such as the UN conventions and the UN Security Council resolutions, and are therefore not legally binding, there are substantial linkages in the themes and underlying policies of the UN instruments and the FATF Recommendations.

Additionally, there has been significant emphasis on the implementation of the FATF Recommendations through their endorsement by more than 180 countries around the world and by the Executive Boards of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. This is reinforced through the undertaking of mutual evaluations by the FATF and FATF-styled regional bodies ("FSRBs") and though assessments by the IMF and the World Bank.

Consequently, in considering AML/CFT international law and standards, it is important to have regard to both UN conventions and UN Security Council resolutions and the FATF Recommendations.

Key aspects of the international law and standards

Countries are expected to have adequate AML/CFT legal frameworks, adequate institutional regimes for implementing AML/CFT requirements, and procedures in place for supporting international cooperation. Specifically they are required to:

  • Recognize money laundering and terrorism’s financing as criminal offenses. Countries are required to criminalize the laundering of proceeds of criminal activities and activities relating to financing of terrorism.
  • Apply a risk-based approach on the risks associated with money laundering and the financing of terrorism that affect them. 
  • Pay attention to countries with higher risks associated with money laundering and the financing of terrorism, and require financial institutions to apply enhanced due diligence to business relationships and transactions involving these countries. 
  • Apply the money laundering offense to a wide range of predicate offenses. This includes corruption-related offenses such as obstruction of justice, bribery of public officials and in the private sector, embezzlement or misappropriation of property, and abuse of functions.
  • Include tax crimes in the list of “underlying” crimes that give rise to money laundering under their national law.
  • Institute a comprehensive regulatory and supervisory regime for banks and nonbank financial institutions. Such a regime should have requirements for customer due diligence, record keeping and reporting of suspicious transactions, and adequate regulatory and supervisory capabilities for ensuring compliance with the requirements.
  • Ensure that national authorities tasked with AML/CFT responsibilities can cooperate and exchange information at the national and international levels. This should include establishment of a national financial intelligence unit for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of AML/CFT-related information.
  • Implement financial sanctions of the United Nations Security Council on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related financing.
  • Enable the freezing, seizing, and confiscation of proceeds and instrumentalities of crime and terrorism-related assets. This includes freezing without delay funds and other financial assets of persons and entities designated as persons or entities associated with terrorism.
  • Require the detection and monitoring of cross-border movements of cash and negotiable instruments.
  • Strengthen the emphasis on the connection between fighting corruption and combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
  • Strengthen the emphasis on transparency in connection with the beneficial ownership and control of legal persons and arrangements.
  • Ensure that countries afford one another the widest forms of cooperation in mutual legal assistance and extradition.