Financial Monitoring Service to be independent
03 April, 2014
Financial Monitoring Service to be independent
The Financial Monitoring Service will leave the National Bank of Georgia and become an independent body under the Prime Minister of Georgia rather than to be handed over to the Ministry of Finances as intended initially, Georgian majority MPs decided after three-week debates and discussions with the Governor of the Central Bank and public sector. However, opponents of the idea still believe this is no compromise as the initiative counters the check-and-balance policy.
In early March, Davit Onoprishvili, Head of
the Finance and Budget Committee of Parliament, initiated a bill on the removal the FMS handling illicit income and anti-terrorist funding from the Central Bank’s management and putting it under the MOF administration. The idea instigated much fuss putting businesses and the public sector on alert that the confidentiality of commercial secrets might be trespassed. It particularly upset Governor of the NBG Giorgi Kadagidze, who ardently criticized the suggested reform underlining that neither MOF nor any other interested structure except the NBG can be admitted to the banking secrecy. Transparency International Georgia, a non-governmental watchdog, discerned the risks of restricting independence of FMS, once passed from the non-political NBG to the government that counters Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations to make FMS as much independent and free from political influence as possible.
Formally the FMS is independent as it is a legal entity of public law set up with and financed by the NBG during the last decade. It is accountable to the government, while all the financial sector related businesses are responsible to send to the FMS information on transactions higher than GEL 30,000 as well as report on suspicious deals.
Economic analysts think the FMS handover bespeaks of a latent attempt of the Georgian authorities to impose heavier control and undermine the NBG. They point out the past experience manifesting that FMS gives certain controlling levers to the political establishment. Association of Young Financiers and Businessmen of Georgia recollects the infamous past of the NBG. AFBA released the rap sheet of the NBG demonstrating its mishandling with the FMS before the power shift as a tool of the state to crack down on business, banks and persons affiliated with political opponents. AFBA approves the FMS handover to the Prime Minister as it is in line with international practice of only three countries. Azerbaijan, Armenia and Italy have FMS under Central Bank management, while an overwhelming majority of the developed world runs this service at different governmental structures including the ministries of finances or police.
TI Georgia opposes that in countries where FMS operates under a governmental umbrella [the list incorporates about 18 countries including France, Belgium, Canada, the US, the Czech Republic, Poland etc.] the system of checks and balances is strong while in Georgia it is either absent or quite weak.
“In addition, the judiciary in many European countries enjoys a higher degree of independence than in Georgia. Therefore, we believe the executive should not have access to confidential banking details, the disclosure of which may be required in order to comply with anti-money laundering legislation,” TI Georgia states.
Onoprishvili himself plays down all fears related to the FMS reform. “This reform is in line with best international practices,” he told Georgian Journal. “And I cannot understand the ongoing fears about the alleged commercial secrecy leakage or mishandling FMS as a political tool. The authorities may have access to any information whether or not it is under its control if it has such political will. The ex-power’s illegal practice demonstrated this clearly. The FMS will be safer under the Prime Minister’s control and no one’s secrecy is under threat, unless they are practicing illegal economic activity. I wonder why Kadagidze is so nervous about this handover. He has got something to hide that may come out after the FMS is passed on, perhaps?”

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