Vanuatu has not received any formal notification from oil-rich Azerbaijan, a country situated at the crossroads of Southwest Asia and Southeastern Europe, which appears to have blacklisted Vanuatu
amongst other offshore financial centres.
The country’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) confirmed this to Daily Post yesterday evening. “We have not received any formal notification from the International Cooperation Review Group (ICRG) of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) nor Azerbaijan,” the specialised Unit stated in response to our query.
Yesterday afternoon, Radio New Zealand reported that Vanuatu, Nauru, the Cook Islands and Samoa are on a list of 15 countries that have been identified by Azerbaijan as financial offshore centres or small, low-tax jurisdictions specialising in providing corporate and commercial services to non-resident companies offshore for investment, from where no company can operate in the country’s securities market.
The 15 countries are blacklisted as a base for shareholders active in Azerbaijan.
According to the FIU, 31 legislative bills were prepared and disseminated to the ICRG/FATF for their review and comment.
“Given our status on the grey listing, Vanuatu has made significant progress since September 2016,”the FIU conveyed.
“The National Coordinating Committee (NCC) will be meeting the FATF/ICRG team on the 23rd of January, 2017 in Sydney to present its updated progress report.”
The Unit noted that it would seem Azerbaijan citizens (shareholders of securities dealers) could not register their securities dealerships in Vanuatu and other blacklisted jurisdictions and then trade on Azerbaijan’s securities market.
“Vanuatu has received an exponential number of applications for securities dealership registration in Vanuatu and may affect dealerships wishing to trade on the Azerbaijan securities market,” the FIU stated.
The mutual evaluation by the Asia Pacific Group (APG) in July 2015 resolved that Vanuatu was non-complaint with several of the FATF on Money Laundering standards.
The government then established the NCC, which deals with Anti-Money laundering and counter financing terrorism.
In March 2016 Daily Post first broke the story of a possible looming scandal, attributed to the failure of successive governments to act against money laundering and terrorist financing which can place Vanuatu on an international financial blacklist.
The Government, through the Minister of Finance and Economic Management was swift to assure that it is committed to removing Vanuatu from the ‘Grey List’.
Three months later, the government’s bid to remove Vanuatu from the ‘Grey List’ saw the amendment of the International Companies Act [CAP 222] in Parliament.
This aims to address legal deficiencies in order to comply with international requirements that Vanuatu has committed to, which includes the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and other international regulations.
Meanwhile, the RNZI article mentioned other offshore centres include Panama, the Dutch Antilles and the US Virgin Islands.
It also added that Russian Media have reported an estimated U$S50 billion transferred illegally from Azerbaijan to offshore centres in 2014.