Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said the government will put in place measures to uphold the rules of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to prevent Cambodia from backsliding onto the organisation’s grey list or black list after the Kingdom was officially removed from its “Money Laundering Grey List” on February 24.

Sar Kheng said the removal of Cambodia from the FATF grey list was another success on par in importance with its hosting of the 40th and 41st ASEAN summits and 43rd ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) in 2022.

“So, we will summarise, experiment and put in place some measures to better protect the FATF’s ruling in the future. It doesn’t mean that we have now succeeded so we will become careless and possibly backslide onto the grey or black list,” he said during a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the National University of Chea Sim Kamchaymear on February 25 in Prey Veng province.

“We could not leave the situation like that because it would affect our development and investment, especially foreign investments … It was really difficult [to be grey-listed] and [investors] seemed unhappy and not warm to putting their investment capital into Cambodia. So, the situation wasn’t good. Therefore, we are all proud [to be off the grey list] and we will continue to work on this issue together,” he said.

He added that the government is also putting more effort into a related campaign to improve Cambodia’s rating in the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, which he said is also a complicated issue.

“We hope we will succeed like we did with the counter money laundering efforts,” he said.

Cambodia was relisted on the grey list in 2019 by the FATF – an intergovernmental body set up to develop policies to combat international money laundering and the funding of terrorism – after it had previously been removed in 2015. Cambodia’s relisting was largely thought to be due to the influx of Chinese casino investments in Sihanoukville and a perceived lack of law enforcement resources dedicated to money laundering crimes.

According to the FATF, Cambodia and Morocco have been actively working with the FATF to address strategic deficiencies in their regimes to counter money laundering, terrorist financing and weapons proliferation financing, and in doing so they regained the confidence of the organisation and were taken off the list.

“Morocco and Cambodia are no longer subject to increased monitoring by the FATF,” it said in its public statement.

Three countries remain on the FATF black list of countries abetting money laundering: North Korea, Iran and Myanmar, while more than 20 countries remain on the grey list, meaning they have taken “insufficient” measures to combat money laundering.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, applauded Cambodia’s removal from the grey list.

He called on the government to continue enforcing strict anti-laundering policies, saying that when a nation is put on the grey list, it causes international cash flow problems for those who wish to invest in that country.

“Therefore, we must strengthen the implementation of the law, including immigration laws, online gaming laws and other relevant laws to prevent this problem in the future,” he told The Post on February 26.

Soy Chanvichet, a spokesman for the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU), said that it was a positive achievement for Cambodia because it made it easier for the Kingdom’s financial sector and contributed to the nation’s economic activity.

“In order for FATF to remove Cambodia from this grey list, the government has had to do a lot of work to meet the body’s requirements and it was a whole-of-government effort that allowed us to accomplish it so quickly,” he said.

He added that Cambodia has strengthened its legal mechanisms and law enforcement measures to counter money laundering and intensify crackdown until Cambodia was trusted again by the FATF.

He said the concern that Cambodia was in danger of becoming a haven for international money laundering to extreme levels was just speculation without facts because the government was always opposed to it and just needed to devote more resources to stopping it.

Additional reporting by Samban Chandara