INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Tunisia and the U.S.-Mena Private Sector Dialogue

Published: Wed 6 Sep 2006 07:34 AM
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB
DE RUEHTU #2292/01 2490734
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 060734Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY TUNIS
TO RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1765
UNCLAS TUNIS 002292
SIPDIS
SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
NEA/MAG FOR MAYA HARRIS,
TREASURY FOR MENA AML/CFT - RYAN WALLERSTEIN AND KRISTEN
HECHT
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN ETTC PREL PTER KTFN TS
SUBJECT: TUNISIA AND THE U.S.-MENA PRIVATE SECTOR DIALOGUE
(PSD)
REF: A. TUNIS 1340
B. STATE 82643
C. STATE 123341
1. (SBU) Summary: Post has provided contact information on
bank associations in Tunisia (ref A). In addition, EconOff
met with Mr. Amor Saafi, Managing Director of the Association
Professionnelle Tunisienne des Banques et des Establissements
Financiers (APTBEF) - the other bank association provided in
ref A. According to Saafi, terrorist financing and money
laundering are not a primary area of concern for Tunisia, but
the GOT does have an anti-terrorism and money laundering law
(Law No. 2003-75). In addition, in May 2006, the Central
Bank issued a directive ordering banks to report suspicious
activity and setting up the anti-money laundering program.
This directive also requires banks to have a compliance
officer by January of 2007. As a founding member of the
Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force
(MENAFATF), Tunisia is interested in the December MENA
Private Sector Dialogue (PSD) conference in New York. End
Summary.
-------------------
Tunisia and the PSD
-------------------
2. (SBU) In an August 4 meeting with EconOff, Mr. Amor Saafi
of the Association Professionnelle Tunisienne des Banques et
des Etablissements Financiers (APTBEF) gave a brief overview
of the mission of the association: It writes official
publications and studies for the Central Bank; provides
training for banks in productivity and competitiveness;
organizes conferences on monetary and fiscal policy or other
issues of concern; and engages in dialogue with other banking
institutions abroad on issues of shared interest (i.e. how to
improve efficiency of banking operations, exchange of
experiences, etc.). The association is also working to help
Tunisian banks better align their structure and operations
with international banking standards.
3. (SBU) Discussion then turned to the Private Sector
Dialogue (PSD) and the December conference in New York.
According to Saafi, Tunisian banks do not have compliance
officers. Rather, each bank has a committee that deals with
money laundering and terrorism issues. This committee is
required to report their findings on any suspicious activity
to the Central Bank Commission (Commission Tunisienne
d'Analyses Financieres). Taoufik Baccar, Governor of the
Central Bank is the president of this commission. The
secretary of the commission and the Central Bank official
SIPDIS
responsible for money laundering and terrorist financing is
Mr. Samir Brahimi (samir.brahimi@bct.gov.tn). Saafi provided
a copy of the Law No. 2003-75 on combatting terrorism and
money laundering. He also indicated that there have been two
decrees issued since the law was passed, one of which created
the Commission Tunisienne d'Analyses Financieres (Decree No.
2004-1865). The second decree calls for the creation of a
compliance officer (or equivalent function) to be created in
all banks by January of 2007. He did not have copies of
these decrees but promised to provide EconOff with copies as
soon as possible. Saafi expressed a strong interest in the
MENA/PSD conference and requested that Post provide him and
the Central Bank with details.
----------
Background
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4. (SBU) Tunisia is not considered an important regional
financial center due in large part to the very strict control
exercised by the Central Bank over all aspects of financial
transactions and the general non-convertibility of the
Tunisian dinar. There is an offshore banking sector that is
subject to the same regulatory standards as onshore banks and
is also tightly controlled by the Central Bank. Offshore
banks are licensed only after the Central Bank investigates
their references and the Ministry of Finance approves their
application. Due to this tight control, there is no
discernible money laundering activity reported to be
occurring in Tunisia through formal financial institutions.
-------
Comment
-------
5. (SBU) The December New York PSD conference coincides with
the January 2007 deadline for Tunisian banks to have a
compliance officer function in place. This requirement
should help generate interest and increased Tunisian bank
participation in the conference. The June 28 meeting of the
Association Tunisienne des Diplomes de l'Institut Technique
de Banque de Paris is evidence of continuing Tunisian
interest in these issues. Post will continue efforts to
obtain a list of relevant officials in the Tunisian banking
sector and report septel.
BALLARD
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