Recognizing the benefits inherent in the development of a FIU network, in 1995, a group of FIUs met at the Egmont Arenberg Palace in Brussels and decided to establish an informal group for the stimulation of international co-operation. Now known as the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units, these FIUs meet regularly to find ways to cooperate, especially in the areas of information exchange, training and the sharing of expertise.
The goal of the Egmont Group is to provide a forum for FIUs around the world to improve cooperation in the fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism and to foster the implementation of domestic programs in this field. This support includes:
- expanding and systematizing international cooperation in the reciprocal exchange of information;
- increasing the effectiveness of FIUs by offering training and promoting personnel exchanges to improve the expertise and capabilities of personnel employed by FIUs;
- fostering better and secure communication among FIUs through the application of technology, such as the Egmont Secure Web (ESW);
- fostering increased coordination and support among the operational divisions of member FIUs;
- promoting the operational autonomy of FIUs; and
- promoting the establishment of FIUs in conjunction with jurisdictions with an AML/CFT program in place, or in areas with a program in the early stages of development.
What is an FIU?
Over the past years, specialized governmental agencies have been created as jurisdictions develop systems to deal with the problem of money laundering and other financial crimes. These entities are commonly referred to as “financial intelligence units” or “FIUs”. They offer law enforcement agencies around the world an important avenue for information exchange. An FIU, quite simply, is a central office that obtains financial report information, processes it in some way and then discloses it to an appropriate government authority in support of a national anti-money laundering effort. FIUs have attracted increasing attention with their ever more important role in anti-money laundering programs. They are able to provide a rapid exchange of information (between financial institutions and law enforcement / prosecutorial authorities, as well as between jurisdictions), while protecting the interests of the innocent individuals contained in their data.
Two major influences shape the creation of the FIUs: implementing anti-money laundering measures alongside already existing law enforcement systems (the Judicial, Law Enforcement and Hybrid models) or providing a single office for centralizing the receipt and assessment of financial information and sending the resulting disclosures to competent authorities (the Administrative and Hybrid models).
- The Judicial Model is established within the judicial branch of government wherein “disclosures” of suspicious financial activity are received by the investigative agencies of a country from its financial sector such that the judiciary powers can be brought into play e.g. seizing funds, freezing accounts, conducting interrogations, detaining people, conducting searches, etc.
- The Law Enforcement Model implements anti-money laundering measures alongside already existing law enforcement systems, supporting the efforts of multiple law enforcement or judicial authorities with concurrent or sometimes competing jurisdictional authority to investigate money laundering.
- The Administrative Model is a centralized, independent, administrative authority, which receives and processes information from the financial sector and transmits disclosures to judicial or law enforcement authorities for prosecution. It functions as a “buffer” between the financial and the law enforcement communities.
- The Hybrid Model serves as a disclosure intermediary and a link to both judicial and law enforcement authorities. It combines elements of at least two of the FIU models.
Structure and Organization of the Egmont Group
The Heads of FIUs (HoFIUs), the Egmont Committee, the Working Groups and the Egmont Group Secretariat make up the operating structure of the Egmont Group.
The Heads of FIUs
The HoFIUs comprise the Egmont Group’s governing body; making decisions on any matters that affect the Group’s membership, structure, budget and principles. The HoFIUs reach decisions by consensus.
The Chair of the Egmont Group
In June 2010, Mr. Boudewijn Verhelst was appointed Chair of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units.
From 1975 to 1994, Mr. Verhelst served as King's Attorney (Public Prosecutor), in charge of the financial fraud section in Bruges. In 1994, he was appointed Deputy Attorney General at the Court of Appeal in Gent. He has also been seconded as deputy director of the Belgian Financial Intelligence Processing Unit, CTIF-CFI since July 1993.
Mr. Verhelst brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his post as Chair. He was a lecturer in commercial and economic law at the Police Academy for the Province of West-Flanders, as well as Law Enforcement expert to the Moneyval Committee as part of the Council of Europe.
His other posting include Evaluator of legal and law enforcement in FATF, Council of Europe, CFATF, WB and various IMF AML/CFT assessments.
The Egmont Committee
The Egmont Committee serves as the consultation and coordination mechanism for the HoFIUs and the Working Groups. Its primary functions include assisting the Egmont Group in a range of activities, from internal coordination and administration, to representation at other international fora. It also oversees the work of the Egmont Group Secretariat. The Egmont Committee is comprised of permanent and regional members. The Egmont Committee is currently made up of a Chair, two Vice-Chairs, the Chairs of the five working groups, regional representatives from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and Oceania, a representative of the host of the Egmont Secure Website (FinCEN) and the Executive Secretary of the Egmont Group.
The Working Groups
In order to accomplish its mission of development, cooperation, and sharing of expertise, the Egmont Group created five working groups. The working groups meet periodically and report to the HoFIUs about their activities. The working groups and their functions are as follows:
- The Legal Working Group (LWG) reviews the candidacy of potential members and handles all legal aspects and matters of principle within Egmont, including cooperation between FIUs.
- The Outreach Working Group (OWG) works to create a global network of FIUs by identifying candidates for membership and working with those FIUs to ensure that they meet the Egmont Group standards.
- The Training Working Group (TWG) identifies training needs and opportunities for FIUs and their personnel, and conducts training seminars for Egmont members as well as for non-Egmont members jurisdictions.
- The Operational Working Group (OpWG) seeks to bring FIUs together on typologies development and long-term strategic analytical projects.
- The IT Working Group (ITWG) provides advice and technical assistance to new and existing FIUs to develop, enhance, or redesign their IT systems, and examines new software applications that might facilitate analytical work.
The Egmont Group Secretariat
The Secretariat was established in July 2007 and is based in Toronto, Canada. It provides administrative and other support to the overall activities of the HoFIUs, the Egmont Committee and the Working Groups. The Secretariat is headed by the Executive Secretary of the Egmont Group who is appointed by the HoFIUs and who reports to them through the Egmont Committee.