FINANCE: US praises Cyprus for \\\’enormous progress\\\’ on anti-money laundering

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Cyprus has made great strides on issues relating to anti-money laundering (AML), said visiting US Treasury Department Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea.

Billingslea’s visit to Nicosia is part of Washington’s scrutiny over the island’s financial sector. 

Cypriot Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said Cyprus and the US with the EU are promoting a common agenda on issues of AML and counter-terrorism financing.

“The work done by the government on anti-money laundering front, on the portfolio of topics has been outstanding,” Billingslea said after meeting Georgiades.

He added, “there has been enormous progress and improvements made in the different laws and regulations and enforcement authorities.”

He said the US Treasury Department has “a very close working relationship” with Cyprus.

“We greatly value the close partnership that with you and your ministry and we look forward to keeping that relationship and intensifying that relationship in the days ahead.”

Georgiades said this was his third meeting with Billingslea which shows “how close our substantial cooperation is developing.”

He said Cyprus enjoys excellent political relations with the US.

“We should do more, we can do more in expanding economic and financial ties and this has been the main focus of our discussions,” said Georgiades.

“We also know that we face common challenges, global challenges AML and countering terrorism financing is a major preoccupation for both of our governments, it is a major preoccupation for the EU…we have a very strong collaboration promoting a common agenda,” he added.

Georgiades said he and Billinglsea discussed specific proposals over maintaining and expanding contacts with the US authorities and on how they could “work even more effectively together.”

Billingslea earlier met Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides and Central Bank Governor Constantinos Herodotou.

Last week, the US State Department published its annual report on money laundering which placed Cyprus on the list of ‘high-risk’ countries, even though “several positive steps” have been taken such as the adoption of the 4th European Directive.

The report said Cyprus’ financial system is “vulnerable to money laundering by domestic and foreign criminal enterprises and individuals, although proceeds generated abroad pose a greater threat.”