Cablegate: Results of Financial Systems Assessment Team Visit to The

DE RUEHGB #1347/01 1220956
R 010956Z MAY 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) This is an RRT Erbil reporting cable.

2. (SBU) A tailored Financial System Assessment Team (FSAT)
consisting of Gary Novis (Department of State, Office of the
Coordinator for Counterterrorism (S/CT)-Head of Delegation), Robert
Stapleton, (Department of Justice, Asset Forfeiture and Money
Laundering Section), Matthew Johnson (Treasury - Office of the
Comptroller of the Currency), Gregg Davis (Department of Defense,
Iraq Threat Finance Cell) and Elizabeth Ingalls (Department of
State, Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism (S/CT)
conducted an onsite visit to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq from
December 8-14, 2007. The team was accompanied by Jeffery Hilsgen
(Department of State, Regional Reconstruction Team in Erbil). The
team met with a wide array of government and private sector entities
in the Kurdistan Region, including representatives from the
Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Ministries of finance,
interior and justice, as well as central bank branch leaders, police
and airport security officials, bankers, money exchangers and money
transmitters. By necessity, the FSAT was limited in both duration
and geographic scope and therefore this assessment should be seen in
this context. The FSAT team, however, does note the near universal
desire for counterterrorist finance and anti-money laundering
training and technical assistance in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Executive Summary

3. (SBU) The KRG understands the serious nature of money laundering
and terrorist financing and acknowledges the need for training,
particularly given its history of internal and external isolation.
The KRG is primarily focused on combating Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and
its affiliated groups, as well as groups supported by Iran, as they
are seen as the primary terrorist threat to Iraq and the Kurdistan
Region. While Kurdistan Region's economy is primarily cash based,
this is likely to change as energy sector development increases the
need for the development of a more robust formal financial sector
that is integrated into the international financial community.
Therefore, development of sound anti-money laundering and
counterterrorist financing (AML/CTF) regimes that are well
integrated into the overall AML/CTF system of Iraq, are critical in
reducing the risk of terrorist financing and money laundering in the
Kurdistan Region and Iraq.

4. (U) The KRG governs three provinces - Erbil, Sulaimaniyah, and
Dohuk. In 2006, the KRG absorbed several ministries in Sulaimaniyah
that had previously functioned somewhat independently. The KRG has
not yet absorbed the Sulaimaniyah ministries of finance, interior
and peshmerga affairs. Likewise, there are two branches of the
Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) in the Kurdistan Region - a branch in
Erbil and a branch in Sulaimaniyah..

5. (SBU) The FSAT noted a number of areas of concern and
vulnerabilities in which training and technical assistance could
help reduce the KAR's vulnerability to terrorist financing and money
laundering. For example, the FSAT noted the lack of connectivity
and communication between the Central Bank branches both within the
KAR and with the Central Bank of Iraq, as well as a lack of an
institutionalized AML/CTF framework. There was also a significant
disconnect between the Central Bank branches and Iraq's financial
intelligence unit (FIU), the Money Laundering Reporting Office
(MLRO). These difficulties are likely to be compounded by the fire
that occurred at the Central Bank in Baghdad on January 28 which
destroyed parts of the Central Bank building and equipment.
Additionally, representatives from the Kurdistan Region's Central
Bank Branches stated that the basic knowledge level of their
employees relating to financial and regulatory matters is quite low
and needs to be raised.

6. (SBU) In the judicial sector there appears to be a lack of
continuity in the application of the Anti-Money Laundering law, and
there are no specialized courts or professional skills development
for the complex crimes of money laundering and terrorist financing.
In addition, while law enforcement authorities vigorously pursue
leads for terrorism and terrorist financing, they could benefit from
additional investigative training, and particularly from financial
"follow the money" investigative training. Finally, the team noted
that Bulk Cash Smuggling training should be pursued as a means of
strengthening the implementation of Iraq's cross border currency
reporting requirements.

Financial Sector Development

7. (SBU) The rudimentary financial sector in the Kurdistan Region
functions within a largely cash-based economy. Most transactions are
conducted via a "hawala" type system of money exchangers and money
transmitters. Integration of the formal financial sector with other
parts of Iraq and the international financial system remains very
limited. This situation, while likely to change as the oil sector
becomes more developed and the need for standard international

BAGHDAD 00001347 002 OF 006

transactions increases, is a major cause for concern, as different
interests both inside and outside of Iraq vie for financial
influence and control.

The Financial Sector

8. (U) The financial sector in the Kurdistan Region consists of
public and private banks, as well as money exchangers and money
transmitters. Banks in the Kurdistan Region are responsible for
providing banking services to both the general public and, through
public banks, to government entities as well. As noted earlier the
Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) is responsible for licensing all public
and private banks in Iraq. Representatives from the banking
community noted that they are still in the early stages of
attracting both individuals and business customers, as years of
economic instability and numerous bank failures have led many to
distrust banks. The banking community in the Kurdistan Region has
also suffered both technologically and experientially as a result of
both international and internal isolation during the regime of
Saddam Hussein.

9. (SBU) The FSAT held discussions with representatives from several
money exchange and money transmitter businesses. They confirmed
that most transactions, foreign exchange operations, and money
remittances take place through these businesses and not through the
banking sector. Most international remittances are done via related
offices in Amman or Dubai. While simple funds transfers can take
weeks to accomplish through the banking sector, the same
transactions can be done very rapidly and at lower cost through
money exchange and transfer sectors.

Financial Sector Challenges and Vulnerabilities
--------------------------------------------- --

10. (U) The financial sector in the Kurdistan Region faces a number
of challenges with respect to terrorist financing and money
laundering. Kurdish bankers' professional skills atrophied and
remained underdeveloped during the regime of Saddam Hussein. The
overall level of banking expertise is limited, especially among the
area's Iraqi-owned banks that possess little knowledge or expertise
with regard to execution of international transactions. The banking
sector in general lacks sufficient technology to function
effectively domestically, let alone internationally. There is a
lack of modern banking technology, in particular a complete absence
of an electronic payment system and wire transfer capability. As
the financial sector is relatively new, there is little
institutional knowledge with respect to AML/CTF issues.
Furthermore, while the banks are ostensibly providing traditional
banking services such as lending to the community, in practice they
collect funds and send excess reserves to the Central Bank in
Baghdad where they receive 18-20 percent return on deposit
facilities in excess of the obligatory reserve requirement (as of 2
March 2008 this return is 15-18 percent.) Deposit facilities for
dinar are term deposits having 7, 14, and 30 day maturities.
Outside of this relationship, there is poor communication with the
Central Bank, particularly with respect to addressing potential
money laundering, suspected terrorist financing and other potential

11. (SBU) The banking sector believes that terrorist financing and
money laundering risks lie primarily with the money
exchange/transfer service sector. They advocate and are lobbying
for a legal ban against such services. Based on our experiences,
the FSAT does not advocate this approach. Given the low-level of
development of the banking sector, such a policy would likely prove
counter-productive, difficult to enforce, and remove incentives for
the money exchangers and transmitters to cooperate with authorities.
The FSAT recommends that the KRG authorities look at alternative
solutions, such as more stringent licensing of the money exchangers
and transmitters and a requirement to report suspicious
transactions, as more effective means of reducing vulnerabilities
relating to terrorist financing and money laundering in this sector.

12. (SBU) Although financial institutions are required to report
suspicious transactions, including potential money laundering and
terrorist financing under the anti-money laundering ordinance, in
practice they do not. This is due to a lack of training, technology
and the isolation of the MLRO.

13. (SBU) The banking sector as a whole will benefit from training
and technical assistance in all areas of banking. The acquisition
and implementation of modern banking technology will not only
improve the effectiveness of the banking sector overall, it will
also provide banks with increased capability to collect and report
data, such as suspicious transactions. This will help reduce the
banking sector's money laundering and terrorist financing risks.

14. (SBU) As the MLRO becomes more established and experienced it
should engage in a public outreach program in the Kurdistan Region

BAGHDAD 00001347 003 OF 006

and the rest of Iraq, to educate the banking sector and general
public on the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing and
the benefits in reporting suspicious transactions.

The Central Bank of Iraq

15. (U) The CBI has four branches; two of these branches are in the
Kurdistan Region (in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah). A third branch is in
Basra, and the fourth is in Mosul. The CBI also houses Iraq's
financial intelligence unit, the MLRO. In the Kurdistan Region, the
branch offices of the CBI have, contrary to Iraqi law, assumed
responsibility for licensing and examining private and public banks,
and money exchangers and transmitters. Currently the Central Bank
of Iraq branch in Erbil licenses a total of 45 private banks and
branches and 22 public banks and branches. The Central Bank in
Sulaimaniyah licenses 12 private banks and branches and 16 public
banks and branches.

16. (U) Both Central Bank branches are required to conduct periodic
examinations of the banks. For public banks this occurs every 6
months and every three months for private banks. The Central Bank
branch in Erbil currently has ten examiners (five of which are money
laundering examiners) while the Central Bank of Sulaimaniyah has
nine examiners (three of which are money laundering examiners). At
this time, there have been no meaningful examinations or visitations
by employees of the Central Banks to any of the banks or branches
they are charged with overseeing.

Central Bank Challenges and Vulnerabilities

17. (SBU) CBI oversight and control of the Kurdistan Region's
post-2003 banking system remains inadequate. The FSAT believes the
CBI could become even less adept at fulfilling its regulatory
oversight responsibilities, given the expected petrodollar-fueled
development and expansion of the Kurdistan Region's commercial
banking system. In other words, the CBI's slowly improving
regulatory capabilities will likely not match the expected faster
pace of development in the banking sector. One of the most
significant challenges facing the two Central Bank branches in the
Kurdistan Region is the lack of communication between the branches
themselves and and the Central Bank of Iraq in Baghdad. In
addition, CBI branch leaders in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah remain
adamantly independent of CBI headquarters in Baghdad with respect to
addressing money laundering, terrorist financing and other illegal
financial activities.

18. (SBU) The FSAT noted the strong interest in the Central Bank
branches for increased training to address a number of challenges
and vulnerabilities that they face with respect to money laundering
and terrorist financing. One of the challenges confronting the
Central Bank is the lack of trust and confidence in the formal
financial sector due to the history of misuse and abuses of this
sector during the Saddam Hussein regime. The Central Bank branches
also acknowledged a lack of communication between the central bank
branches in the Kurdistan Region and headquarters in Baghdad. This
lack of communication makes the Central Bank of Iraq particularly
vulnerable to those who can and will exploit this vulnerability to
engage in money laundering and terrorist finance activity.

19. (SBU) An additional vulnerability lies in the largely
unregulated money exchange and money transmitter businesses.
Although they are required to be licensed, the level of supervision
is at best nominal. Currently, the licensing of the money exchange
and money transmitter business is carried out by the Ministry of
Finance. However, this responsibility is being transferred back to
the Central Bank. Due to the lack of oversight by the Central Bank
relating to the formal financial sector, this transfer will not by
itself reduce the level of vulnerability in this sector. The money
exchanges are not subject to the same examination process as banks
nor are they required to report suspicious transactions.

20. (SBU) Central Bank branch officials acknowledge that the current
training on AML/CTF and banking examination practices is inadequate.
In addition, the MLRO, which should assist in the training and
monitoring for ML/TF, is not developed enough yet to execute its
core mission. Additionally, the lack of substantive communication
with Central Banks branches outside of Baghdad continues to hinder
any efforts in the area of AML/CTF.

Recommendations for Central Bank
Training and Technical Assistance

21. (SBU) Although it falls somewhat outside the scope of the
AML/CTF assistance, the FSAT highlights the need for improved
technology to assist the Central Bank branches in conducting their
core responsibilities, particularly in the areas of fund transfers,
analysis (cash and credit positions) and prudent safety and
soundness examinations. Communication standards need to be

BAGHDAD 00001347 004 OF 006

developed and implemented (via technological/IT solutions) so the
Central Bank branches can communicate and with each other, with the
Central Bank headquarters in Baghdad, and the MLRO. Effective
communication will reduce exposure and the risks associated with
financial fraud, money laundering and terrorist financing.

22. (SBU) With respect to anti-money laundering, the FSAT believes
the Central Bank employees will benefit from regulatory training
that focuses on banking processes, electronic funds transfers, bank
examination policy and procedures and AML/CTF techniques. As time
progresses, and the MLRO becomes more capable (or experienced),
consideration should be given to the concept of placing a MLRO
representative in each of the Central Bank branches. This would
facilitate communication and enhance the Central Bank branches'
AML/CTF knowledge and capabilities.

Ministry of Finance

23. (U) The KRG Ministries of Finance in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah are
primarily responsible for disbursing funds to the various government
ministries once the Kurdistan National Assembly (KNA) has passed an
approved budget. The Ministries of Finance also have an audit and
control function that is responsible for ensuring the ministries are
operating within their respective budgets. In addition to these
general responsibilities, these ministries are supposed to maintain
a list of all licensed money exchangers and transmitters.
Currently, there is no such list.

24. (SBU) The Ministries of Finance are currently not capable of
effectively and efficiently performing their overall mission due to
a lack of financial and budgeting processes. In addition, their
employees do not have the necessary expertise to perform critical
audits of the monies being disbursed to the various government

25. (SBU) The FSAT recommends that such information (i.e., license
applications and approvals, owner and operator information, etc.)
associated with all money exchangers and transmitters collected into
a database and shared with the appropriate authorities such as the
Central Bank branches and the MLRO.

26. (SBU) The FSAT also recommends that the Ministries of Finance
commence a robust training program to enhance their audit and
control functions. Currently no one effectively audits or
investigates discrepancies in the various ministries' budget and
payment systems.

Justice Sector

27. (U) The FSAT met with members of the Judiciary and the Ministry
of Justice.

Basic Structure and Criminal Procedure

28. (U) There are three levels of courts: the court of first degree,
the court of appeal, and the court of assignation. The court of
first degree includes criminal courts, civil courts, investigative
courts, juvenile courts, labor courts, and secular courts for
non-Muslims. A few days prior to the arrival of the FSAT, the
President of the KRG approved a new law that creates a Judicial
Council, thus making the courts independent of the KRG's Ministry of
Justice (MOJ) and the executive branch.

Criminal Procedure

29. (SBU) A criminal case must go through a series of phases before
it can be brought to the court of first instance. During the
initial investigative phase of the case, law enforcement initiates
an investigation, approved by the MOJ, during which law enforcement
entities collect evidence pertaining to the crime that allegedly
occurred. The case is then submitted to an investigative judge in
the investigative court. If the investigative judge believes that
the evidence is sufficient to proceed, s/he will refer the case to
the public prosecutor, who can then refer the case to the criminal
court. The prosecutor reviews the investigative judge's decision
and advises the criminal court whether to take the case. The
prosecutor can also refer the case back to the investigative judge
if s/he thinks there are gaps in the case. If the investigative
judge does not believe the evidence meets the burden to refer the
case to the criminal court, s/he can dismiss the case and release
the individual. The investigative judge has six months to review a
case. If s/he needs more time to conclude the investigation, s/he
can petition the court for an extension. If the case makes it to
the court of first degree, a three judge panel hears the case, with
two judges acting as reserves. Of the three judges, one may be the
President of the Court, and only he addresses the participants in
the proceedings. Should the defense or prosecutor have a question

BAGHDAD 00001347 005 OF 006

of a witness, s/he must ask the judge to ask the question. The
trials are bifurcated for guilt and penalty. If the court finds the
defendant guilty, it will then issue a separate ruling on the
penalty. Should the court issue a death sentence, the defendant
gets an automatic appeal to the Court of Cassation. In all other
cases, the parties must request an appeal and have 30 days to do so
from the time the court issues its opinion.

30. (SBU) The Public Prosecutor acts like a monitor in criminal
trials, and is permitted to raise issues or questions. If the court
does not address the issue(s) the prosecutor raises, s/he may appeal
the court's decision. At the conclusion of the trial, the
prosecutor writes a report about the trial.

31. (SBU) There was little to no discussion about money laundering
cases that have made their way through the courts. It appears to be
safe to say that KRG officials have not prosecuted anyone under the
AML law implemented by the CPA. The courts can order confiscation
of property, but it appears they can only do so if directly related
to the crime, including drug proceeds. According to the Iraqi Penal
Code, a person must pay the government back for any property s/he
stole from the government, even if the person must do so at his/her
own expense. In other cases of theft, restitution is made to the
victim(s). Any property forfeited to the state becomes state
property and goes into the general treasury. Should the government
confiscate perishables, it can sell them off while the case is
on-going and if the defendant is acquitted, the government returns
the money it realized from the sale of the goods to the defendant.
While the case is on-going, the government appoints a judicial
guardian to supervise and maintain the property pending the outcome
of the case.

32. (SBU) The Kurdistan Region does not have any special courts
dedicated to trying a narrow set of cases, (e.g., a court dedicated
to trying only terrorism cases). But, according to some officials,
there is a special investigative court dedicated to examining
terrorism cases. The Public Prosecutor does not have prosecutors
who specialize in prosecuting certain types of cases, (i.e., there
are no prosecutors devoted to prosecuting only financial crimes).

Justice Sector and Vulnerabilities

33. (SBU) Based upon the discussions the FSAT had with MOJ and
judicial authorities, several challenges and vulnerabilities were
noted. As with other institutions, the MOJ and judicial authorities
in the Kurdistan Region have been hampered by international and
domestic isolation. In addition, there was a lack of independence
of the judiciary as well as some reported cases of political
influence over the administration of justice. As mentioned above,
however, the KRG just passed a new law granting the judiciary
independence. This may help to alleviate some of these issues, but
training on an independent judiciary is of the utmost importance.

34. (SBU) One specific concern noted by the FSAT was the lack of the
application of the anti-money laundering law within the Kurdistan
Region. There is confusion amongst KRG officials as to how the law
is applied. Some believe that the CPA AML law is not in effect in
the Kurdistan Region because the Kurdistan National Assembly never
approved it. Other officials believe the law is in effect in the
Kurdistan Region and should be applied, but they noted the lack of
will amongst officials in the region to apply the law. While there
is no question that AML training is absolutely necessary for all KRG
law enforcement officials, prosecutors and judges, there are other,
more basic issues that first must be addressed via training. , Due
to the lack of a strong Central Bank, inadequate technology employed
by banks, and a deeply rooted distrust of the banking sector,
comprehensive AML training at this time may be premature. However,
if the training were tailored and specific, AML training would be
beneficial in the regulation, investigation and prosecution of cases
involving money exchange houses.

35. (SBU) The KRG has prosecuted a number of terrorist cases. The
KRG judicial officials noted that security at terrorism trials
remains an issue. There have been no terrorist financing cases.
Officials also noted that Iraq does not have a stand alone terrorist
financing law.

36. (SBU) Based on these discussions the FSAT team recommends a
number of training initiatives. First the FSAT recommends training,
perhaps in the form of a legal symposium on the Anti-Money
Laundering law and its application. Second, if amenable, we can
provide comments on the new law creating an independent judiciary.
The judiciary is also in need of training to address its new-found
independence. The FSAT believes that the Kurdistan Region's
prosecutors could benefit from specialized basic and general
training on financial crimes tailored to the current specific needs
in Iraq. Furthermore, the FSAT believes that joint judicial and
prosecutorial training in case management techniques would help
improve the efficiency of the Kurdistan Region's legal system.
Finally, the Iraqis are in desperate need of training to combat

BAGHDAD 00001347 006 OF 006

corruption; however, due to the lack of will to prosecute certain
types of cases, most notably against politicians, results may be

Ministry of Interior

37. (SBU) The Ministries of Interior (MOI) in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah
are primarily responsible for general law enforcement operations,
with the exception of drugs and terrorism, which is the purview of
the Asayeesh (Security Police), with whom they cooperate. The MOIs,
however, have a significant law enforcement training function.

38. (SBU) There is a Ministry of Interior in Erbil as well as in
Sulaimaniyah, with the MOI in Erbil covering both Erbil and Dohuk
provinces. The Ministries informed the FSAT that they are working
on a draft law to combine the two ministries. It appears as though
the MOI in Erbil has more state of the art equipment, because the
MOI in Sulaimaniyah stated that when they have an issue they cannot
resolve in their small lab in Sulaimaniyah, they turn to the lab in
Erbil for assistance. The police under the control of the MOI have
the ability to conduct undercover operations and controlled
deliveries, but do not have the equipment to conduct surveillance.

39. (SBU) In order to join the police forces under the purview of
the MOI, one must attend a college for police. If one is a high
school graduate, s/he would attend the college for three years. If
one is a college graduate, s/he would only have to attend the
college for 8-9 months. Courses at the college include physical
training, law, human rights, and democracy. The MOI in Erbil told
the FSAT that they are building a new police academy in Dohuk that
would be ready in six months, with classrooms that will hold 30-40
students and will accommodate computer presentations. The MOI in
Sulaimaniyah told the FSAT that they also have their own police
college that is better than the academy in Baghdad, but not as good
as the one in Dohuk.

40. (SBU) Almost all of the police force is armed with AK-47's.
According to the MOI in Erbil, about one-third of the police force
is armed with pistols. Police officers can only arrest with a
warrant, unless they witnessed someone committing a crime. The MOI
police also need the permission of the MOJ in order to conduct an

41. (SBU) Both MOI's admitted they need training in investigating
money laundering and financial crimes. While there appears to be
good communication between the ministries in the KRG, there appears
to be poor communication with the central government. The MOI in
Erbil claims to have a good relationship with police in Mosul and
Kirkuk, but no one claims to have good communication with Baghdad.
The MOI in Sulaimaniyah stated that it is difficult to purchase the
necessary weapons and ammunition it needs and that they are not
getting any assistance from Baghdad in this regard.

MOI Challenges and Vulnerabilities

42. (SBU) MOI officers and personnel could benefit from additional
training in basic investigative techniques as well as financial
investigative training. Communication between local law enforcement
throughout Iraq must improve, and the central government in Baghdad
must provide the necessary information to the various law
enforcement groups throughout the country, including sharing
Interpol notices, developing a criminal database, and communication
with the MLRO. Not only would the MOI benefit from a more uniform
training of its cadets in Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniyah, but so
would all of Iraq. Training appears to be disjointed and better in
some parts of the country than in others. It is important that a
national, federalized police force be able to function with the same
skill level regardless of its location. Perhaps the central
government needs to develop a national curriculum and should look
towards the training grounds in the Kurdistan Region as a starting
point for training all national law enforcement. MOI officials
noted that they do not conduct surveillance because they lack the
necessary equipment.


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