Bankers plea for cultural understanding

Arab bankers have called for multinational anti-money laundering regulations
to take into account their region’s family-orientated, cash-based business
traditions and the need to agree on a common definition of terrorism.

‘We need to define terrorism as we see it,’ said an Egyptian banker attending
a US-MENA Private Sector Dialogue Conference on Combating Money Laundering and
Terrorist Financing, held in Cairo.

He was responding to US Treasury officials’ calls to implement Financial
Action Task Force and US Patriot Act regulations in a region where certain
US-certified terror groups are considered political organisations. One issue
raised was applying ‘Know Your Customer’ requirements in societies where money
laundering is not a priority crime.

‘The biggest problem we found was not informing managers about spotting
dubious transactions so as not to offend cultural sensitivities, because in a
cash-based society you do not ask where the money comes from,’ said Warren
Leaming of HSBC Middle East.

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