Turkey speeding up efforts to track suspicious bank transactions in bid to combat with terror financing

Turkey speeding up efforts to track suspicious bank transactions in bid to combat with terror financing

Güneş Kömürcüler - ISTANBUL
Turkey speeding up efforts to track suspicious bank transactions in bid to combat with terror financing

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Turkey is set to introduce a new system to increase the data quality in tracking suspicious transactions, in line with efforts to boost the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing, senior officials announced on April 26. 

At the beginning of a two-day workshop hosted by the Financial Crime Investigation Board (MASAK) and the Banks’ Association of Turkey (TBB) on April 26, Finance Minister Naci Ağbal said one of the most significant elements of the MASAK’s activities is instantly tracking suspicious transactions.

“The MASAK and the TBB have recently clinched a key initiative. Thanks to their collaborative work, we will soon be able to track and monitor all transactions simultaneously,” Ağbal said on the sidelines of the workshop in Istanbul. 

Both Turkey’s Revenue Administration and the MASAK now take retroactive data about banking and financial transactions and these data are provided by banks and other financial organizations on a periodic basis, he added. 

“Thanks to the new initiative, we will soon be able to get the most updated data in this area,” said Ağbal, noting that this initiative would make a significant contribution in fight against the informal economy and in filing revenue tax information. 

MASAK President Osman Dereli said the institution had obtained considerable knowhow since its establishment in 1997, but its workload has almost increased by 10-fold since the failed July 2016 coup attempt. 

“Since the coup attempt, the importance of our institution has soared. Our workload has increased almost 10-fold since last July. So we have faced an urgent need for a restructuring and a capacity increase,” Dereli said, adding that the institution would boost its cooperation with banks in the coming period. 

Significant rise in suspicious transactions

He also noted that the number of suspicious transactions had increased from 74,000 to 132,500 over the past year. 

“Some 117,000 of these transactions were reported by banks to us,” said Dereli.

The MASAK head also noted that Turkey had started preparation of an action plan to review and assess its compliance level to international standards ahead of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) assessments, which are scheduled in 2018. 

In its prior assessment in 2014, the FATF welcomed Turkey’s significant progress in improving its “anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism [AML/CFT] regime” and noted that Turkey has established the legal and regulatory framework to meet its commitments in its action plan regarding the strategic deficiencies that the FATF had identified in February 2010. 

“Turkey is therefore no longer subject to the FATF’s monitoring process under its ongoing global AML/CFT compliance process. Turkey will work with the FATF as it continues to address the full range of AML/CFT issues identified in its mutual evaluation report,” it added. 

Further coordination over sanction lists needed

TBB President Hüseyin Aydın said Turkey’s banking sector has been closely following the international standards.

“As part of these processes, we want to mention a couple of points that need to be improved. First of all, sanctions toward certain countries are checked through lists from three main sources: The U.S., the European Union and the United Nations. As banking sector representatives, we face difficulties in finding addressees in this multi-headed structure when there is a need to clarify several points … The MASAK should especially focus on delivering updated banned people lists,” Aydın said, adding that this would considerably ease coordination. 

He also noted that the MASAK makes checks and audits over banks through the banking watchdog BDDK, but this leads to some problems in practice. 

“We have seen that some courts, which are not specialized in such transactions, have made decisions against our banks. The MASAK should give clearer information to banks about the details of suspicious transactions and such trends,” added Aydın, noting that some banks are fined without having any space to them to defend themselves.