AML workshop Vientiane 15 March 2017
Pol. Col. Khamhoung Sengphaseuth, Deputy Director General of the General Police Department, Ministry of Public Security, and Head of National Secretariat for Anti-Human Trafficking; Dr Vernsavanh Sivixay, Deputy Head, Anti Money Laundering Intelligence Unit. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I am very pleased today to join you for the opening of this workshop. It’s the latest iteration of Australia’s support over recent years to help the Lao PDR develop – and now implement – an international standard regime to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
I acknowledge the enormous effort from many of you around the room in recent years to develop a legal framework that will satisfy the Financial Action Taskforce, or FATF.
I’m proud also of the active role of the Australian Government, through our work with the Asia Pacific Group on anti-money laundering, to help you get to this point – including to ensure Laos was able to avoid the FATF blacklist at the February 2016 meeting in Paris.
I now understand, following the most recent FATF meeting in Paris in February this year, Laos has been able to demonstrate sufficient progress to potentially qualify for removal from the FATF grey list some time this year. We naturally wish you well with that.
While that is very positive, the hardest part of any regulatory and law enforcement reform agenda is, of course, the implementation – where we all again face the pressure of having to meet FATF standards.
Australia and Laos have had long-standing cooperation on law enforcement. We recognise Laos has unique challenges, as a land-locked country in a region of significant illicit trade, with many porous borders.
But we know too transnational crime is a shared problem that affects us all in the region, and that requires closer cross-border and regional collaboration.
Although there are linkages across different types of transnational crime, there is one thing these organised crime networks have in common – the need for ‘clean’ money.
Money is the lifeblood of organised crime, including human trafficking.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates forced labour, human trafficking and modern slavery generate illicit proceeds of around US$150 billion each year. and that nearly $52 billion – or a third – of those proceeds are generated in the Asia-Pacific region. Given that’s five times the size of the Lao economy, we are talking about big business!
We are therefore delighted our colleagues from Australia’s Attorney General’s Department, and from the Australian Federal Police, have been able to come to Vientiane to deliver this three day workshop – which will focus on how Laos can effectively utilise its anti-money laundering and asset recovery regimes to combat trafficking in persons and related transnational crimes, including people smuggling.
One of the most effective ways to disrupt and dismantle human trafficking criminal networks is, of course, to identify and confiscate the money they spend and collect.
Tracing the financial flows associated with human trafficking can help investigators identify members, and victims, of a human trafficking network.
Confiscation of profits can also have an important deterrence effect. It discourages criminals who may be prepared to risk gaol time if they are confident the profits from their activities will be available to them when they get out of prison.
In terms of the benefits for Laos, money confiscated from transnational crime networks can be used in a number of ways – including to help victims of crimes, to provide additional resources for enforcement agencies, and for investment back into community programs, including health and education.
In short, these proceeds of transnational crime represent a windfall for successful law enforcement efforts, and an effective way of defeating the illicit trade.
We’re delighted to bring together today representatives from the Ministry of Public Security, the Bank of Lao PDR (and its Financial Intelligence Unit) and Prosecutors. You are all an important part of the vital whole of government effort required to combat transnational crimes like human trafficking.
Australia is very pleased to share what expertise we can to help you do your important jobs, in investigating and prosecuting crimes and helping protect vulnerable people from exploitation.
Thank you again to our visiting presenters from Australia.
And let me wish you the best of health and every success in your collective law enforcement efforts on behalf of the people of the Lao PDR.