The Turkish government has moved to boost its contribution in global counter-terrorism efforts by ratifying a key convention of the Council of Europe (CoE), of which it is a founding member state.
Ankara signed the CoE's Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism back in March 2007, but it has so far refrained from ratifying the convention.
However, Parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission approved the convention on Dec. 30 and it is expected to be sent to the General Assembly floor for ratification in the New Year.
The convention is aimed at facilitating international cooperation and mutual assistance in investigating crime and tracking down, seizing and confiscating the proceeds thereof. It is also intended to assist states in attaining a similar degree of efficiency even in the absence of full legislative harmony.
By becoming a party to the convention, member states are expected to criminalize the laundering of the proceeds of crime and confiscation of instrumentalities and proceeds (or property the value of which corresponds to such proceeds).
For the purposes of international cooperation, the convention provides for forms of investigative assistance in procuring evidence, transferring information to another state without a request, adopting common investigative techniques, and lifting bank secrecy.
It provides measures to confiscate the proceeds of crime such as enforcement by the requested state of a confiscation order made abroad and domestic proceedings leading to confiscation at the request of another state. It also provides for provisional measures such as freezing bank accounts and seizing property to prevent its removal.
The convention outlines the establishment of a financial intelligence unit (FIU) in signatory states: A central, national agency responsible for receiving, analyzing and disseminating to the competent authorities, disclosures of financial information concerning suspected proceeds and potential financing of terrorism, or required by national legislation or regulation, in order to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.
It also requires each party to adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to ensure that its FIU has access, directly or indirectly, on a timely basis to the financial, administrative and law enforcement information that it requires to properly undertake its functions, including the analysis of suspicious transaction reports.
Back in February 2013, Turkey adopted a much debated bill on the prevention of terrorism financing, the Law on the Prevention of Financing of Terrorism (No.6415). The law came into effect only days before Turkey's possible demotion to the “black list” of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental action group established to combat international money laundering and terrorist financing.
At the time, opposition parties had strongly resisted the bill, arguing that the commission authorized with the bill would be able to freeze the financial assets of all dissident media outlets, associations, companies, labor unions, political parties, business people, foundations and trade bodies.
The Assessment Commission on Freezing Assets set up with the Law No. 6415 works under the chairmanship of the President of Turkish National Financial Intelligence Unit (MASAK). If Ankara ratifies the CoE convention, the commission will deal with asset freezing requests made by foreign countries and requests made by Turkey to other countries.