In Summer 2019, Panama was added to the grey list of FATF, at a time when the country was finalizing its reforms. Alber & Geiger was called to halt the result in FATF from spilling over in the EU and to weigh in the new EU methodology and the procedural gaps in the EU listing. Panama was caught in a timing paradox: Its automatic EU listing would be followed by a potential delisting from FATF, without clear assurances that the latter would be reflected in an EU delisting.
Our goal was straightforward: raise awareness for Panama’s advances in combating money laundering and through that ensure that the EU will not unjustly list Panama as a high risk third country. Our message had to circle in the three key EU institutions. The architect of the procedure and list of high risk third countries, the European Commission, and the gatekeepers of the procedure, the European Parliament and the Member States. Our message was tailor made for each front, appealing the several working levels and directorates of the Commission, the Committees of the European Parliament and different levels of organization in the Member States. Alber & Geiger grasped the opportunity of the drafting of the new methodology for the EU listing of high risk third countries, to engage with the different Commission directorates involved in the process and apply Panama’s position. In the Parliament, we focused on rewarding a third country such as Panama, which is determined to turn a bad precedent into a success story and we stressed upon the bilateral relationships of Panama towards the Member States.
The EU did not implement its list and methodology as planned. Panama being listed by the EU as a high risk third country within the EU anti money laundering framework now is based on an automatic listing/delisting process with FATF. Our lobbying efforts enhanced the visibility and acknowledgement of Panama’s efforts in modernizing its anti-money laundering regime and changed the original EU methodology draft according to the demands of Panama.