Zac Cohen, General Manager at Trulioo, discusses the key considerations for businesses before engaging in commerce in high-risk countries.

Doing business internationally is a complicated undertaking. Aside from the standard logistical challenges associated with doing business globally, organisations have to factor in considerations specific to different regions and countries. These considerations may include factors such as legislative, political, currency and transparency challenges.

Nevertheless, globalisation is storming ahead and businesses must be prepared to look beyond their domestic surroundings if they are to remain competitive in our global marketplace. International trade secretary Liam Fox has endorsed a move for UK-based businesses to adopt a more international focus, highlighting the importance of global competitiveness. Consequently, UK businesses are feeling the pressure to ramp up their efforts to target a more international consumer base. As if this wasn’t enough for international businesses and investors to grapple with, further complications and difficulties are liable to arise when doing business with “high risk” countries.

  1. Fraud and Corruption

A recent study by the World Bank estimated that an extra 10 per cent is added to the cost of doing business internationally as a direct result of bribery and corruption.1 Considering the immense amount of international trade, this figure is significant. The danger of doing business with countries considered to be “high risk” – defined by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) as any country with weak measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing – is the heightened potential of inviting transactions that are either fraudulent or otherwise corrupt.1 The following considerations should be carefully observed before entering into any commercial dealings with a country considered to be high-risk.

  1. Enhanced Due Diligence

As a result of the 4th Anti Money Laundering (AMLD4) directive, developed by the European Union, businesses have to adopt a risk-based outlook. The AMLD4 specifies that EU-based businesses must collect relevant official documents directly from official sources like government registers and public documents, rather than from the organisation in question. If a potential trading partner is located in a high-risk country, or serves an industry that has a higher than normal risk of money laundering, then that partner must conduct Enhanced Due Diligence (EDD) on the business entity. This Enhanced Due Diligence process involves additional searches that must be carried out by any firm seeking to do business with this kind of organisation. These searches may include parameters such as the location of the organisation, the purpose of the transaction, the payment method and the expected origin of the payment.

  1. Ultimate Beneficial Owners

AMLD4 also outlines the need to discover the ultimate beneficial owner of a business, whether they are customers, partners, suppliers or connected to you in another business relationship.

According to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF),

Beneficial owner refers to the natural person(s) who ultimately owns or controls a customer and/or the natural person on whose behalf a transaction is being conducted. It also includes those persons who exercise ultimate effective control over a legal person or arrangement.

This is important as businesses need to understand who they are dealing with when physical verification is not a practical option. Difficulties could arise when verifying UBOs in high-risk countries as some national jurisdictions impose secrecy policies which block access to verification documentation. This problem is compounded when checking UBOs against international sanction and watch lists as there are more than 200 lists, which vary in scale and uniformity.

  1. Virtual Identification

However, verification can still be successful. Many are now turning to software that helps businesses to perform the necessary diligence checks. We gave a lot of consideration to the specific complexities of working with high-risk countries when developing our Global Gateway platform. Programmes such as these are designed to allow companies to perform the Enhanced Due Diligence, Know Your Business and Know your Customer checks that are required when doing business internationally, particularly with high-risk countries. Compliance with the various pieces of legislation on this topic should be at the forefront when implementing the necessary verification checks.

Across the world, markets are becoming increasingly more open, paving the way to a truly global economy. If companies can get to grips with the key due diligence requirements, this is a move that will ultimately benefit the global consumer and customers alike.