Marshall Billingslea, the US Treasury Department’s Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing, will be in Cyprus on Thursday and Friday to check “Cyprus has a strong and healthy financial sector”, according to an official announcement on Wednesday.
The visit, which is taking place as part of a regional trip, “is part of the US commitment to work with partners in the wider region to step up their efforts in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism” the announcement said.
During his visit, Billingslea will meet Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades, the new governor of the Central Bank, Constantinos Herodotou, and other officials.
The US official is on a follow-up to his visit here last May. The visit also coincides with the upcoming completion of a new country review by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s permanent monitoring mechanism.
It also comes after the US State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) for 2018, released in March of this year said: “the Cypriot financial system is vulnerable to money laundering by domestic and foreign criminal enterprises and individuals, although proceeds generated abroad pose a greater threat.”
The INCSR noted also that “the gaming sector may pose new, potential vulnerabilities as the Cypriot authorities adjust to supervising casino-based activity.”
Just after the US official’s last visit, a circular was issued by the Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC) to banks, advising them to be extra vigilant against shell companies and letter-box companies, and to avoid doing business with them.
Just following Billingslea’s contacts in Nicosia, the US embassy had released a statement noting that “It is vital that illicit actors know that Cyprus is not open for business.”
The “illicit actors” cited were understood to be Russian businessmen under US sanctions.