WCO holds Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Terrorism Financing Workshop on Operation TENTACLE-Latin America

02 febrero 2021

The World Customs Organization (WCO) Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) Programme, together with WCO partner organizations INTERPOL and the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), launched the first AML/CTF workshop of 2021, “Operation TENTACLE-Latin America”, from 18 to 21 January 2021.  The virtual workshop was attended by 58 representatives of Customs administrations and FIUs in 23 different countries (including Latin American countries, the United States and other gem/gold-smuggling hub countries), as well as INTERPOL officers.

In addition to the presentations by WCO AML-CTF experts, the WCO Regional Intelligence Liaison Office for the Commonwealth of Independent States (RILO CIS), India’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the Israel Tax Authority and Turkey’s Ministry of Finance also gave presentations about the current AML/CTF situation in their respective countries, with an emphasis on gold smuggling trends and cases.

Project TENTACLE is a WCO initiative to counter-bulk cash smuggling and gems and precious metals, with an emphasis on strengthening Members’ capacity to combat money laundering and terrorism financing in the Customs arena. The Operation TENTACLE capacity building workshops aim to raise the skillsets of front-line Customs officers, mid-level supervisors and FIU analysts in tackling currency smuggling, gems/precious metals smuggling and trade-based money laundering (TBML), among other money laundering methods.  Project TENTACLE is entirely funded by the U.S. Department of State-Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (DoS INL).

WCO Compliance and Facilitation Director Pranab Das said “The WCO is very proud to continue the implementation of its marquee AML-CTF operational effort, Project TENTACLE.  The expansion of TENTACLE from the Asia/Asia Pacific, Africa and Latin America regions to include Eastern Europe and the Middle East has been a very impactful development.  The financial intelligence focus of Project TENTACLE and the WCO’s partnership with the Egmont Group will also greatly enhance global efforts to combat the movement of illicit funds.”

After the workshop Mr. Sergio Ramos Vargas, an officer with the Chilean Customs Tax Evasion Control Unit, commented “The experts addressed very important issues, including money laundering schemes and the smuggling of gems and precious metals used for terrorism financing.  The workshop also discussed the important role of FIUs in countering money laundering and terrorism financing.”  Mr. Gustavo Doglio from the Uruguay National Customs Directorate for Carrasco International Airport added “The topics and methods explored in the workshop can be put into practice in my day-to-day operations.  Getting to know other colleagues in the field from other countries was a pleasure and could also prove useful if the opportunity of a (joint) ML/TF case arises.”

Mr. Jorge A. Thibaut, Metropolitan Customs Analyst with Chile Customs, said “It was an honour to receive training from experts with such professionalism and competence in the field.  Even though I work on related topics, the workshop increased my knowledge of AML/CTF concepts.  I believe that Operation TENTACLE could achieve very promising results in Latin America when the operational efforts are able to be conducted in the region.”

Project TENTACLE implements a three-pronged strategy: capacity building, law enforcement partnership efforts, and engaging Customs services to conduct operational efforts after the AML/CTF (virtual) workshops.  The primary focal areas for TENTACLE are the identification, interdiction and investigation of bulk cash and gems/precious metals being smuggled across international borders, as well as trade-based money laundering.  Project TENTACLE anticipates the execution of a bulk cash smuggling and gems/precious metals smuggling operation in Latin America in 2021, provided the global COVID pandemic situation permits.