Financial Action Task Force executive secretary David Lewis has resigned from the post while raising questions about the global body’s ability to operate independently, a money laundering news portal has reported.
ACAMS moneylaundering.com said it obtained a letter that Lewis, who has served in the FATF’s most senior role since November 2015, sent his staff on 23rd September.
He confirmed that he will be stepping down, despite FATF members unanimously agreeing to renew his contract for another three years.
“Unfortunately, this last renewal process involved a prolonged period of uncertainty, exasperated by a proposal out of the blue to introduce a new requirement that the role be readvertised, regardless of my performance,” Lewis reportedly wrote.
The news website said that while Lewis didn’t elaborate on this new requirement, he appeared to suggest towards the end of his letter that influence may have played a role.
“I hope my successor will be selected as I was, and all secretariat staff are—on merit, on the basis of fair and open competition,” he wrote. “I urge you to protect the secretariat and its professional status … so that they can continue to protect and serve you, the FATF, without fear or favour.”
A FATF spokesperson confirmed Lewis’ resignation to moneylaundering.com, but declined to explain further, stating that it is an internal matter for the FATF and the OECD.
Lewis’ resignation has raised the eyebrows of global experts in the field, with Tom Keatinge, director of the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London, stating his letter raises questions as to whether the FATF secretariat is shielded from interference, political or otherwise.
“The FATF secretariat’s credibility is rooted in its ability to operate independently,” Keatinge told moneylaundering.com. “Obviously FATF is going through a period of introspection, and any organization that faces this kind of turmoil when it’s making fundamental decisions about its future … it’s not a good look.”
John Cusack, chair of the Global Coalition to Fight Financial Crime, said Lewis provided exemplary leadership over the past six years, bringing independence and rigour to the FATF’s tasks.
“He also brought the task force to ask itself some very important questions with some difficult answers coming back. That no one is doing well and no one is doing enough when viewed through an effectiveness lens was a difficult but necessary message to communicate as the myriad real world harms that come from financial crimes deserve an honest assessment and actions to improve,” Cusack said.
“David’s clarity of message in often opaque circles will be missed, as will his thought leadership and experience though I suspect there is much more from David still to come.”
Based at the Paris headquarters of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the FATF is tasked with developing global anti-money laundering standards, analysing financial crime threats and overseeing the evaluation of national anti-money laundering frameworks.
Its current president is Marcus Pleyer, who is also the deputy director-general of Germany’s Finance Ministry.
Last June, the FATF placed Malta on its grey list, a decision that has created serious hurdles within the local banking and financial industries.
Graham Bencini, managing director of a corporate services firm and president of the PN’s administrative council, told Lovin Malta in a recent interview that processing banking transactions has become practically impossible.
Cover photos: FATF
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