Brian Sims

RUSI signposts new projects to combat illicit financial flows

THE CENTRE for Financial Crime and Security Studies at Think Tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has welcomed ongoing co-operation with the National Endowment for Democracy, which builds upon previous work centred on empowering civil society and journalists to combat corruption.

A new grant supports three complementary workstreams: the continuation of the project entitled ‘Restricting Kleptocracy: Strengthening Monitoring and Accountability in the First Mile’, as well as two new initiatives entitled ‘Countering Authoritarian Abuses of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Standards’ and ‘The European Sanctions and Illicit Finance Monitoring and Analysis Network (SIFMANet)’.

The first phase of the Restricting Kleptocracy project engaged civil society and investigative journalists in Latin America, East Africa and the Western Balkans with workshops on anti-financial crime standards. The discussions unveiled several areas that could further support grassroots communities in holding kleptocrats and corrupt actors in their countries to account.

The project will continue with a deeper focus on developing understanding of beneficial ownership transparency and asset recovery mechanisms, and also how this knowledge can be useful for investigative and advocacy work.

Further, it will aim to expand knowledge of the interpretation of FATF evaluation reports and country lists.

Countering authoritarian abuses

The findings of the Restricting Kleptocracy project demonstrate an interplay between the tactics of kleptocrats and autocrats: kleptocracy (and the laundering of its proceeds) erodes faith in public and democratic institutions, while autocracy paves the way for leaders to engage in kleptocratic behaviours.

While appealing to internationally recognised standards provides opportunities for civil society to hold kleptocratic Governments to account, the same norms have been ‘weaponised’ by authoritarian Governments to suppress their critics.

By supporting the use of the FATF standards to press for accountability, and due to mitigating the capabilities of authoritarian rulers to co-opt those standards for their own ends, this project will equip a wide array of civil society actors with the necessary knowledge, resources and access to networks to aid in their anti-kleptocratic and pro-democracy efforts.

Financial standards

SIFMANet aims to safeguard existing financial standards and strengthen democracy against illicit finance with a focus on addressing the vulnerabilities in European Union (EU) Member States. This project includes a series of awareness-raising workshops and research engagements with Think Tanks and policymakers across the EU, taking advantage of the current heightened consciousness of illicit finance threats as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This project will address not only the immediate Russia-related threats, but also the underlying systemic failings that persist in the EU’s response to illicit finance. The latter threaten not only EU societies, but also those globally that suffer as a result of Western illicit finance failings.

These new workstreams build on the CFCS’ approach in working with local actors to affect policy change. They will draw on RUSI’s breadth of knowledge of international laws, policies and global anti-money laundering norms, in turn realising evidence-based research and practical implementation.

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