What Are the FATF 40+9 Recommendations: Understanding Global Anti-Money Laundering Standards

Established by the G-7 Summit in 1989, the FATF’s recommendations—known as the FATF 40+9 recommendations—serve as a framework for countries to adopt to prevent illicit financial activities. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an international body that sets standards for combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and other related threats to the integrity of the global financial system. These recommendations provide a comprehensive approach to financial regulation and supervision, emphasising the importance of transparency, international cooperation, and the effective enforcement of legal measures.

While the original 40 recommendations focus on money laundering safeguards, the additional nine particular recommendations, introduced after September 11, 2001, target terrorist financing. The methodology for assessing compliance with these regulations involves rigorous peer review and consideration of a country’s adherence to both technical requirements and the effectiveness of their implementation. Countries worldwide are encouraged to align domestic anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CFT) laws and systems with the FATF standards to safeguard their financial sectors from abuse.

Key Takeaways

  • The FATF 40+9 recommendations are global standards for preventing financial crimes.
  • They aim to enhance financial transparency and promote international cooperation.
  • Effective compliance is measured through a meticulous peer-review process.

The FATF 40+9 Recommendations

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an intergovernmental organisation that sets standards for combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. Established in 1989, it provides a policy framework for AML/CFT measures and fosters global compliance.

Origin and Purpose

The FATF was created as a response to mounting concerns over money laundering. It initially focused on developing policies to prevent financial transactions involving proceeds from criminal activities. Over time, the Task Force expanded its mandate to include efforts to combat the financing of terrorism, evolving into a pivotal body in setting international standards for AML/CFT regulations.

Structure and Membership

The FATF’s structure is comprised of a plenary body that meets three times per year, which is the decision-making group of the Task Force and includes representatives from its member jurisdictions. Membership to the FATF, consisting of 37 member countries and two regional organisations, is limited, reflecting the global commitment to fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. Each member commits to implementing the FATF’s 40+9 Recommendations. Thus, these members play a vital role in shaping the framework of international regulation.

Understanding FATF 40+9 Recommendations

The FATF 40+9 Recommendations are a comprehensive framework for nations to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. They encompass the legal, regulatory, and operational measures countries should adopt to tackle these issues effectively.

Definition and Scope

The FATF 40 Recommendations address money laundering, outlining the necessary steps to identify, assess, and mitigate risks. Nine Special Recommendations extend this framework specifically to combat the financing of terrorism. This integrated set of FATF Standards emphasises financial crime prevention, detection, and prosecution and includes a glossary to clarify key terminology.

Goals of the 40+9 Recommendations

Their primary goal is to set international norms and promote effective legal, regulatory, and operational measures implementation. This includes efforts to criminalise money laundering and terrorist financing, strengthen financial systems, and improve international cooperation. Sanctions apply to countries that fail to comply, ensuring that all member nations uphold the rigorous FATF standards.

The AML/CFT legal framework provides a structured approach to combating money laundering and terrorist financing. It outlines the necessary legal systems, procedures for confiscation, and measures for combating the financing of terrorism and proliferation.

A robust AML/CFT legal framework is founded on a well-functioning legal system. It ensures that laws are in place to identify, trace, and facilitate confiscating assets related to money laundering. Operational issues are addressed through continuous monitoring and updating legal provisions to effectively respond to new challenges in money laundering and terrorist financing.

Money Laundering and Confiscation

Laws specialising in money laundering delineate the offences and prescribe the method for holding offenders accountable. The framework also establishes the procedures for confiscating assets derived from or involved in money laundering, disrupting the financial incentives that fuel such illicit activities. A pivotal aspect of a practical framework is consistently enforcing these laws.

Terrorist Financing and Financing of Proliferation

The legal framework is crucial in defining and criminalising terrorist and proliferation financing. It sets forth stringent regulations to detect and prevent financial support to terrorist groups and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. AML/CFT policies are designed to work cohesively with international sanctions to block the financial channels that may support these activities.

Regulatory Compliance and Supervision

Ensuring that financial institutions and non-financial businesses and professionals (DNFBPs) abide by anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CTF) standards is critical. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) provides comprehensive recommendations to guide entities on appropriate regulatory measures and effective oversight.

Financial Institutions Operational Measures

Financial institutions must establish robust internal policies, procedures, and controls to detect and mitigate money laundering risks and terrorist financing. These include conducting customer due diligence (CDD), maintaining records, and reporting suspicious transactions. Compliant authorities must guarantee these institutions operate within these regulatory frameworks, continuously assessing their adherence to relevant FATF recommendations.

DNFBPs: Guidelines and Compliance

DNFBPs, such as lawyers, accountants, and real estate agents, must follow specific guidance akin to financial institutions. They are expected to develop internal rules and engage in activities consistent with the FATF’s requirements on CDD, record-keeping, and reporting. Supervision for these professionals is enacted through a combination of regulation and oversight, ensuring compliance with established AML/CTF standards.

An example of a country reviewing and potentially updating its legislation in this area is Australia’s proposed Tranche 2 AML reforms.

Preventive Measures

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has established a framework of measures that financial institutions and other entities must implement to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. These measures ensure due diligence is conducted, relevant records are maintained, and suspicious transactions are reported effectively and consistently.

Customer Due Diligence

Financial institutions are required to undertake Customer Due Diligence (CDD) when establishing business relationships or conducting transactions. This process involves verifying the identity of customers and assessing the risk they may pose regarding money laundering or terrorist financing. Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) require enhanced CDD due to their position and the risks associated with potential corruption and bribery.


Entities must maintain comprehensive records of transactions and customer identification for a period as prescribed by local laws, typically spanning five to ten years. These records must be sufficiently detailed to reconstruct individual transactions and provide comprehensive documentation to law enforcement and regulatory agencies upon request without compromising privacy rules.

Reporting Suspicious Transactions

The duty to report suspicious transactions is a cornerstone of the FATF recommendations. Financial institutions and other obliged entities must report transactions that they reasonably suspect may involve the proceeds of a crime or relate to terrorist financing to the appropriate authorities. Maintaining the confidentiality of these reports is essential to safeguard the integrity of the reporting regime and protect the entities from potential legal repercussions.

Transparency and Ownership

In the context of the Financial Action Task Force’s recommendations, the emphasis on transparency and ownership centres on ensuring clear lines of sight towards the control and benefits derived from legal entities.

The FATF 40 Recommendations demand that the actual owners of companies, often referred to as beneficial owners, are identified and this information is made accessible to relevant authorities. Nations are urged to establish comprehensive registers containing up-to-date information on the beneficial ownership of legal persons—which refers to entities like companies or corporations. This push for transparency is critical in preventing the misuse of legal persons for money laundering or terrorist financing.

Similarly, Recommendation 34 focuses on legal arrangements, including trusts, which historically have been more opaque. The FATF calls for measures that enable the identification of settlors, trustees, beneficiaries, and any other individuals with ultimate control over the trust. Enhanced scrutiny helps to unmask the individuals who ultimately own or control such arrangements, bringing greater transparency to financial dealings and ownership structures.

Global Cooperation

Global cooperation is fundamental to the effectiveness of the FATF 40+9 recommendations. International cooperation ensures countries work together to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. It requires a cohesive framework and diligent coordination among all stakeholders.

Mutual legal assistance (MLA) constitutes a critical mechanism for international cooperation. It allows states to request and provide formal assistance in investigating or prosecuting criminal offences. MLA policies are detailed in the FATF recommendations, requiring countries to have legal frameworks to facilitate efficient and timely cooperation.

Extradition and Law Enforcement Cooperation

Extradition strengthens global law enforcement efforts by enabling jurisdictions to surrender individuals accused or convicted of crimes. Interpretive notes guide implementing extradition policies effectively. Law enforcement cooperation further hinges upon the ability of regulators and agencies to work across borders, sharing information and coordinating actions against financial crimes.

Regulatory Powers and Enforcement

The FATF 40+9 recommendations establish a robust framework detailing the responsibilities and powers of competent authorities in preventing and detecting financial crimes, such as money laundering and terrorism financing. These guidelines are instrumental for implementing effective regulatory measures and coordinating enforcement activities nationally.

National Cooperation and Coordination

Under the FATF framework, national cooperation and coordination are imperative for successful anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CTF) efforts. It mandates that countries establish mechanisms that ensure their various competent authorities, such as financial regulators, law enforcement, and intelligence units, work cohesively. These bodies must have the necessary powers and resources to share information, form action plans, and collaborate on investigatory and preventive measures.

Investigative and Provisional Measures

Law enforcement agencies have the authority to conduct thorough investigations into suspected illicit financial activities. The recommendations outline the expansive powers these entities require, such as the ability to compel the production of documents and freeze assets to detect and intercept transactions related to money laundering and terrorist financing. Authorities also bear the critical responsibility of utilising provisional measures effectively while avoiding abuse of power, thereby striking a balance between firm enforcement and protection of civil liberties. These agencies work closely together to dismantle the proliferation of illegal financial flows and enforce preventive measures to secure the financial system.

Unique Recommendations on Terrorist Financing

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has outlined specific measures targeting the financing of terrorism. These measures, referred to as the Special Recommendations, expand upon the FATF 40 Recommendations to address this critical issue effectively.

Adoption of International Conventions

Governments are urged to ratify and implement UN instruments focusing on counter-terrorism. This includes instruments designed to combat terrorist financing directly. Countries must integrate these conventions into their national legal frameworks to ensure full compliance with international standards.

Freezing and Confiscation of Terrorist Assets

The FATF stresses the importance of having mechanisms in place to freeze and confiscate terrorist assets promptly. Governments must establish systems to act swiftly on valid suspicions of terrorist financing. These initiatives are essential for disrupting terrorists’ ability to fund their activities and enhance global security measures.

Emerging Risks and Methodologies

As global financial systems evolve, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recognises the need for a robust and adaptive response to the emerging risks presented by novel technologies and money transmission methods. These risks demand the continuous improvement of FATF’s framework, particularly its risk-based approach and methodology.

Virtual Assets and Service Providers

Virtual assets have substantially altered the financial landscape, offering new opportunities and presenting new challenges for regulators. Entities such as virtual asset service providers (VASPs) are increasingly scrutinised to identify and report unusual or suspicious transactions. The FATF’s updated guidance calls for a robust risk-based approach to oversee these sectors, necessitating a methodology that adapts to the rapid pace of technological advancements and the complex nature of virtual assets.

Non-Profit Organisations and New Payment Methods

Non-profit organisations (NPOs) have historically been vulnerable to misuse for the financing of terrorism, including proliferation financing. The FATF recommendations call for tailored oversight of NPOs to safeguard against these threats while recognising their legitimate activities. Meanwhile, new payment methods, such as alternative remittance systems and wire transfers, have also demanded an updated approach to monitor and flag the risks they may harbour.

Frequently Asked Questions

The FATF 40+9 recommendations are pivotal in the global fight against money laundering and terror financing. They provide a comprehensive framework for jurisdictions to adopt and enforce strong preventative measures. These frequently asked questions explore critical aspects of the FATF’s work and influence.

How do the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations combat money laundering?

The FATF recommendations set international standards to prevent illegal activities such as money laundering. They assist in creating robust legal, regulatory, and operational measures for combating threats to the integrity of the international financial system. Jurisdictions are encouraged to implement these standards to detect and prevent money laundering activities.

Which countries have been identified by FATF as high risk for money laundering?

FATF identifies countries as high-risk with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering regimes. These jurisdictions are listed in documents published by the FATF and are called ‘high-risk and other monitored jurisdictions.’ They may face enhanced due diligence measures to protect the international financial system from their lapses.

Could you explain the purpose of FATF’s nine particular recommendations?

The nine particular recommendations complement the FATF 40 recommendations by focusing on terrorist financing. They include measures for freezing assets, preventing funding to terrorist organisations, and improving international cooperation. Their purpose is to close the gaps in global frameworks that terrorists could exploit.

In what year were the initial 40 FATF recommendations formulated?

The initial 40 FATF recommendations were formulated in 1990. They were designed as an initiative to establish a comprehensive set of guidelines to combat money laundering internationally.

What key measures are outlined in FATF Recommendation 10 for customer due diligence?

FATF Recommendation 10 stipulates key measures for customer due diligence, including identifying and verifying the identity of customers, understanding the nature of their business, and assessing the risks associated with their transactions. Institutions are also urged to monitor customer accounts to prevent misuse for money laundering.

FATF Recommendation 7 requires jurisdictions to implement targeted financial sanctions related to proliferation. Countries should freeze without delay the assets of individuals and entities involved in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as prevent the provision of funds and financial services to them.

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