Combating the Financing of Terrorism and Anti-Money Laundering (CFT/AML Practices)

AML (Anti-Money Laundering) and CFT (Countering the Financing of Terrorism) are practices in the financial industry to prevent the illicit use of the financial system for criminal activities such as money laundering and terrorism financing. Financial institutions that fail to comply with these regulations risk significant financial penalties and reputational damage.

Table of contents

What is AML & CFT?

AML stands for Anti-Money Laundering, and it is a set of laws, regulations, and procedures intended to prevent criminals from disguising illegally obtained proceeds as legitimate funds. The main aim of AML is to prevent money laundering activities by identifying, tracking and ultimately stopping the flow of illicit funds.

CFT stands for Countering the Financing of Terrorism, and it is a set of measures designed to prevent terrorism financing. The main aim of CFT is to cut off the flow of funds to terrorist organizations, thereby undermining their ability to carry out attacks.

Both AML and CFT come under the umbrella of financial regulation and are concerned with ensuring the integrity of the financial system. 

How is AML & CFT related?

AML (Anti-Money Laundering) and CFT (Countering the Financing of Terrorism) are related but distinct practices in the financial industry. AML refers to the set of laws, regulations, and procedures to prevent, detect, and report money laundering activities. CFT, on the other hand, refers to the measures aimed at counteracting the financing of terrorism, including the detection and prevention of the flow of funds to and from terrorist organisations. Both AML and CFT are crucial for maintaining the integrity of the financial system and safeguarding against criminal activities. However, while AML focuses primarily on preventing the illicit use of the financial system for criminal purposes, CFT specifically addresses the financing of terrorism.

Money laundering involves concealing the illegal origin of funds obtained through criminal activities. On the other hand, terrorist financing involves providing or collecting funds, both legal and illegal, for terrorist purposes. Both activities make illegitimate use of the financial system and often involve similar methods, such as transfers and transactions to conceal the source of the funds.

Source of Terrorist Funds

Terrorist groups rely on financing to carry out their activities and sustain themselves. This funding, known as terrorist financing, can come from a variety of sources, both legitimate and illegal.

Legitimate sources of terrorist financing include business profits and charitable organizations. These organizations may not be directly linked to terrorist activities, but their funds may be funnelled to terrorist groups through various means such as front companies or money laundering. Additionally, some businesses may unknowingly provide funding to terrorist groups through extortion or protection money payments.

Illegal sources of terrorist financing include trafficking in weapons, drugs, people, or kidnapping for ransom. These activities can generate large amounts of cash for terrorist groups and are difficult for law enforcement to track.

Governments and financial institutions have implemented a number of measures to combat terrorist financing. These include financial sanctions, anti-money laundering laws, and the freezing of assets. The implementation of these measures, however, is not always effective, as terrorist groups may use alternative financing streams or find ways to circumvent the regulations.

Another important strategy in the fight against terrorist financing is the use of financial intelligence. Financial intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies work together to identify and track terrorist financing activities and disrupt them. This includes the use of financial forensic techniques to trace the flow of funds and identify key individuals and organizations involved in terrorist financing.

There is also an important role for the private sector in the fight against terrorist financing. Financial institutions and other companies have a responsibility to monitor their own activities and report any suspicious transactions. They also have a responsibility to implement appropriate due diligence and know-your-customer procedures to prevent their services from being used for terrorist financing.

What happens if organisations do not comply with regulations?

Regulators have stepped up their enforcement efforts in recent years, as they seek to prevent the illicit use of the financial system for criminal activities, such as money laundering and terrorism financing. Financial institutions that fail to comply with KYC and AML requirements risk significant financial penalties and reputational damage. 

Financial institutions, including banks, faced fines of nearly $5 billion in 2022 for violations of anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, sanctions breaches, and shortcomings in their “know your customer” (KYC) systems. This brings the total fines since the global financial crisis to nearly $55 billion. The US has been the most aggressive imposer of penalties, chalking up $37bn of the fines.

According to the Forbes article “Lessons from the Seven Largest AML Bank Fines in 2021,” several major banks were fined for Anti-Money Laundering (AML) violations in the year 2021. The largest fine was imposed on Standard Chartered Bank, which was fined $1.1 billion for AML violations. BNP Paribas was fined $350 million for similar violations, while HSBC was fined $475 million. Commerzbank was fined $1.45 billion, and JPMorgan Chase was fined $536 million for AML violations. Danske Bank was fined $293 million and Barclays Bank was fined $2 billion for similar violations. These fines highlight the need for financial institutions to have robust AML systems in place to prevent money laundering activities. The fines also serve as a warning to other financial institutions to ensure they are fully compliant with AML regulations

The 9/11 case study

The 9/11 attacks on the United States marked a turning point in the country’s fight against terrorism. One of the key lessons from the tragedy was the crucial role that financial institutions play in supporting and enabling terrorism. In the aftermath of the attacks, the U.S. government took steps to combat terrorist financing and strengthen the role of financial institutions in the fight against terrorism.

The U.S. government established the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in 1950 to enforce economic sanctions against foreign nations. In the wake of 9/11, the OFAC was given additional powers to target individuals and entities that finance terrorism. The government also established the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in 1990 to support law enforcement agencies in the fight against financial crimes. After 9/11, FinCEN was given additional responsibilities to combat terrorist financing.

Financial institutions have a critical role to play in the fight against terrorist financing. They are required to implement anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) policies to detect and prevent the flow of funds to terrorists. The U.S. government has also passed laws, such as the USA PATRIOT Act, to give financial institutions the tools they need to detect and report suspicious activity related to terrorist financing.

Financial institutions must report any suspicious activity related to terrorist financing to the government. They are also required to file suspicious activity reports (SARs) with the government, which can be used by law enforcement agencies to investigate and disrupt terrorist financing networks. Financial institutions must also maintain records of transactions and other financial information related to terrorist financing, which can be used as evidence in legal proceedings against those who finance terrorism.

SAR filing 

A Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) is a document that financial institutions and certain other entities are required to file with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in the United States when they detect or suspect a transaction involving illegal activity, such as money laundering or financing of terrorism.

When a financial institution or regulated entity detects a suspicious transaction, they must assess the transaction to determine if it involves illegal activity and, if so, file a SAR with FinCEN. The filing of SARs is confidential and protected by law, and the information contained in a SAR can be used by law enforcement agencies to support investigations into illegal activities. SAR filing is a critical part of the AML regulatory regime in the United States, and failure to file a SAR when required can result in significant penalties, including fines and reputational damage.

It is important to note that the instructions for filling out a SAR can change over time, and it is always best to consult the most recent guidance from FinCEN for the most up-to-date information. Additionally, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the relevant AML regulations and to consult with legal counsel if necessary. 

Framework for robust AML and CFT system

An effective anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-financing of terrorism (CFT) framework must address both money laundering and terrorist financing risks. This involves implementing measures to prevent, detect, and punish illegal funds entering the financial system, as well as the funding of terrorism. The AML and CFT strategies overlap in their aim to attack criminal or terrorist organizations through their financial activities and to identify components of these networks through the financial trail. This requires mechanisms to monitor financial transactions and detect suspicious financial transfers.

A robust Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) system typically consists of the following components:

Customer Due Diligence (CDD) – This involves the financial institution verifying the identity of its customers and assessing the potential risks associated with them. The financial institution must also continuously monitor customer activity to identify any suspicious transactions.

Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) – This involves the financial institution reporting any suspicious transactions to the relevant authorities. The financial institution must have a reporting process in place to ensure that all SARs are reported in a timely manner.

Transaction Monitoring – This involves the financial institution continuously monitoring customer transactions to identify any unusual or suspicious activity. The financial institution must have a transaction monitoring system in place that is capable of detecting unusual patterns of behavior.

Record Keeping – The financial institution must keep records of all customer transactions and related information. The records must be easily accessible and retrievable in case of regulatory audits or investigations.

Internal Controls and Procedures – The financial institution must have internal controls and procedures in place to ensure compliance with AML and CFT regulations. This may include segregation of duties, management oversight, and regular audits and assessments.

Risk Assessment – The financial institution must regularly assess its AML and CFT risks and implement controls and procedures to mitigate those risks. This may include enhancing customer due diligence processes or increasing transaction monitoring for higher-risk customers.

International Cooperation – The financial institution must have procedures in place to cooperate with international authorities to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing activities.

Regulatory bodies

In the United States, several federal agencies are involved in the regulation and enforcement of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) laws. Some of the key regulators include:

Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) – A bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury responsible for implementing AML and CFT regulations.

Federal Reserve System – The central banking system of the United States, responsible for issuing regulations and guidelines related to AML and CFT compliance.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – A federal agency responsible for regulating the securities industry, including implementing AML and CFT regulations for broker-dealers and investment advisors.

Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) – A division of the U.S. Department of the Treasury responsible for imposing economic sanctions against countries, individuals, and entities involved in activities that threaten the national security and foreign policy of the United States.

Department of Justice (DOJ) – Responsible for investigating and prosecuting financial crimes, including money laundering and terrorism financing.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – The U.S. tax authority responsible for investigating and prosecuting tax evasion and money laundering offences.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an intergovernmental organization which has set standards to promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. The Forty Recommendations on Money Laundering and Nine Special Recommendations on Terrorism Financing set the international standard for AML and CFT measures, which have been adopted by different countries under the supervision of various regulatory bodies.

How can HyperVerge help?

In a survey conducted with 230+ risk and compliance professionals, it was found that 59% professionals said transaction monitoring and case management software was essential for any successful risk and compliance program and 84% of professionals said that identifying new fraud schemes and updating their tech stack accordingly was their biggest challenge. But, the Hyperverge solutions make it all easier. 

HyperVerge helps organizations combat money laundering and identity fraud by providing a solution that cross-verifies user information against a central database and global PEP/Sanctions list. The technology can detect and flag potential frauds across multiple databases, providing a powerful tool in the fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.

In the context of Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT), HyperVerge’s face deduplication search and cross-verification of user information against global PEP/Sanctions lists can help to identify individuals and organizations that are known or suspected to be involved in financing terrorism. By detecting these entities early on, organizations can take proactive measures to prevent the flow of funds to terrorist groups and disrupt their financial networks.

HyperVerge’s AML solution can help financial institutions and other organizations comply with regulatory requirements by providing a tool to identify and flag potential money laundering activities. This can include cross-checking customer information against global PEP/Sanctions lists, detecting and preventing multiple identities from being used for a single transaction, and detecting suspicious transactions or activities that could be indicative of money laundering. Sign up now!

How can HyperVerge help with compliance


What are some examples of CFT measures?

Some of the must-have CFT measures are know-your-customer (KYC) procedures, suspicious activity monitoring, and financial sanctions screening.

What are the consequences of non-compliance with CFT and AML regulations?

The consequences can include fines, loss of license, reputational damage, and criminal charges. In some cases, non-compliance can also lead to legal action by regulatory authorities or law enforcement agencies.

Nupura Ughade

Nupura Ughade

Content Marketing Lead

With a strong background B2B tech marketing, Nupura brings a dynamic blend of creativity and expertise. She enjoys crafting engaging narratives for HyperVerge's global customer onboarding platform.

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