Anti-Money Laundering (AML) in Belarus
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|Belarus is susceptible to money laundering due to its vast problems with organized crime. In order to combat the threat of money laundering, Belarus issued the Law on Measures to Prevent the Laundering of Illegally Acquired Proceeds in 2005. This Anti-Money Laundering (AML) law established the legal and organizational framework to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing. All financial institutions in Belarus must adhere to the rules and measures described in the AML law. The Law makes money laundering crimes punishable by heavy fines and up to ten years in prison.
In 2003, Belarus established the Department of Financial Monitoring (DFM), the Belarusian equivalent of a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). The DFM operates within the State Control Committee and it is in charge of monitoring, gathering and disseminating all financial intelligence. All evidence of money laundering is analyzed by the DFM and passed on to law enforcement officials for prosecution. Belarus requires that financial institutions report all financial transactions that exceed $27,000 USD to the DFM.
The Economy of Belarus
Belarus remains one of the world’s most heavily state-controlled economies. State banks account for 75% of the banking sector. Economic output, which had declined for several years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, revived in the mid-2000s thanks to the boom in oil prices. Notwithstanding foreign assistance, the Belarusian economy continues to struggle under the weight of high external debt servicing payments, a growing trade deficit, stagnant economic growth, and low foreign reserves.
Banking in Belarus
The National Bank of the Republic of Belarus is the Central Bank of Belarus. It was established in 1992, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The National Bank is guided by the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and the Banking Code of the Republic of Belarus. The Bank’s main objectives are producing the Belarusian Ruble and ensuring its stability, purchasing power, and exchange rate to foreign currencies; developing and strengthening the banking system; and ensuring efficient, secure, and reliable functioning of the payment system.
The National Bank of the Republic of Belarus is the relevant monitoring agency for most of the transactions conducted by banking and other financial institutions. All information on suspicious transactions must be reported to the National Bank’s Department of Bank Monitoring.
Currency in Belarus
The Belarusian Ruble (BYR) is the national currency of Belarus. Banknotes are available in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000 and 100000 Rubles. No coins are used in Belarus for circulation and only a small amount of commemorative coins are produced.
The Belarusian Ruble has only been in circulation since 1992, with the Russian Ruble being previously used as the standard currency throughout the Soviet Union. It was not until 1994 that the Belarusian Ruble became the official national currency.
Belarus is mainly a cash-based country. Credit cards are not readily accepted as payment in the countryside and villages. Areas that do accept credit cards have a less favorable exchange rate and may charge customers additional money for the privilege of having a credit card.
Other Key Statistics of Belarus
Time Zone: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time).
Daylight Savings Time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October.
Location: Eastern Europe, east of Poland.
Population: 9,608,058 (July 2014 est.)
Labor Force: Approximately 51.3% work in the services industry, 34.7% in industry and 14% in agriculture. The unemployment rate is approximately 1.6%.
Languages Spoken: Belarusian and Russian.