The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is issuing this Advisory to U.S. financial institutions to take reasonable steps to guard against the potential flow of illicit assets that may be related to the current political and social unrest in Tunisia and abrupt changes in the government in Tunisia.1 FinCEN is issuing this Advisory to remind U.S. financial institutions of their requirement to apply enhanced scrutiny for private banking accounts held by or on behalf of senior foreign political figures2 and to monitor transactions that could potentially represent misappropriated or diverted State assets, proceeds of bribery or other illegal payments, or other public corruption proceeds originating in or diverted from Tunisia. Financial institutions should be aware of the possible impact that political and social unrest in Tunisia may have on patterns of financial activity in the region when assessing risks related to particular customers and transactions. 3
If a financial institution knows, suspects, or has reason to suspect that a transaction relating to senior foreign political figures involves funds derived from illicit activity, if the transaction appears to have no business or lawful purpose, or if a customer has engaged in activities indicative of money laundering, terrorist financing, or any other violation of federal law or regulation, the financial institution must file a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR). 4 Additionally, covered financial institutions are reminded of the regulations implementing section 312 of the USA PATRIOT Act, (312 U.S.C. 5318(i)), which require a written due diligence program for private banking accounts held for non-U.S. persons designed to detect and report any known or suspected money laundering or other suspicious activity. 5 In instances where senior foreign political figures maintain private banking accounts at a covered institution, those financial institutions are required to apply enhanced scrutiny of such accounts to detect and report transactions that may involve the proceeds of foreign corruption. 6
In April 2008, FinCEN issued Guidance to assist financial institutions on reporting suspicious activity regarding proceeds of foreign corruption. That Guidance also highlights potential indicators of transactions that may be related to proceeds of foreign corruption.7 Financial institutions may find this Guidance useful in assisting with suspicious activity monitoring and due diligence requirements related to senior foreign political figures.
Questions or comments regarding the contents of this advisory should be addressed to the FinCEN Regulatory Helpline at 800-949-2732.