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‘We need to stop talking and start doing’; Ex-FATF Chief David Lewis slams current AML approach and says ‘fining banks doesn’t work’ in fight against financial crime

By Elizabeth Hearst for AMLi

The former Executive Secretary of the Financial Action Task Force has blasted the current anti-money laundering approach of fining banks with lacklustre AML regimes, as the practice “doesn’t work”. 


“We need to stop talking and start doing,” said Lewis, who added that “the world doesn’t need more standards or regulations”. 


Lewis stressed that Governments need “practical help”, if the sector is to “effectively prevent and detect money laundering and to better investigate and prosecute it”, in an interview with the Financial Times. 


Following a six-year stint at the global financial watchdog, Lewis announced in October that he would be resigning from his post, sending shockwaves through the financial sector. 


Sometimes outspoken, Lewis’ leadership at FATF has been described as “exemplary” by industry professionals. He had previously criticised the financial sector for a “box-ticking approach” and said the fight against FinCrime had been hampered by “investment in the wrong places”. 


Last March Lewis gave an impassioned speech at the Illicit Financial Flows conference in which he hit out at the financial sector. “As AML professionals, we all need to take more risks and stop just ticking the boxes” said Lewis. 


In his latest interview, Lewis was also critical of jurisdictions at a political level who “don’t fully understand the importance of tackling money laundering”, adding these were “often motivated by trying to support their financial institutions and stop them being fined”. 


On Monday it was announced that Lewis would be joining corporate investigations and risk consulting firm, Kroll, as its Managing Director of Forensic Investigations and Intelligence practice. 


In his new role, Kroll announced Lewis would have an “international remit”, and would be “further expanding Kroll’s anti-money laundering (AML) advisory services to help governments and financial institutions around the world effectively detect and prevent money laundering”. 


Speaking of his appointment, Lewis said he was looking forward to working with new colleagues and leveraging “in-house capabilities and experience to take effective action against money laundering”, and providing “practical advice to countries that require independent support to fight financial crime”.

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