On the heels of an international stamp of approval by the Financial Action Task Force (FATC) earlier this summer, the U.S. government has followed suit and lifted a financial advisory for the small Caribbean island country of Antigua and Barbuda.
The move is especially interesting for the interactive gaming industry, with many operators and software companies (nearly 100) based in the country.
In lifting the advisory, which was in place since April 1999, the U.S. Treasury Department is letting banks and consumers know that the small country is now in compliance with codes and practices that prevent money laundering and have standards in place that are at least equal to those in other industrialized jurisdictions.
The move was announced Tuesday when the Treasury sent a letter to Antigua's senior ambassador, Sir Ronald Sanders.
Sanders credited Antigua's Prime Minister Lester Bird in much the same way he did when the he received word that the country had been pulled from the FATF's list of non-conforming states and territories.
Sanders said Bird had great "vision and courage" in "spearheading the government's resolve to ensure that Antigua and Barbuda's anti-money laundering regime meets the highest international standards."
It wasn't easy for Bird and other members of the government to take a stand against money laundering and tighten the reigns on the banking sector, according to Sanders, but the move has clearly paid off with the international community giving the small country its support and approval of the measures.
"Prime Minister Bird's determination to give Antigua and Barbuda a clean reputation in the international community has paid-off," Sanders said.
The move by the U.S. government is the culmination of a long process of getting international approval, according to Sanders, and completes a triple crown of sorts for the country.
"Antigua and Barbuda was recognized by the Financial Action Task Force as a fully cooperative jurisdiction against money laundering," he said. "The United Kingdom government lifted its financial advisory on July 16 and now the United States has recognized the considerable reforms that the Antigua and Barbuda government has made."
Although the U.S. has followed the likes of the FATF and the U.K. government, the move didn't come without some convincing on the part of Sanders. At the Prime Minister's request, Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda's lead negotiator on international financial services, led a three-man delegation to Washington two weeks ago to discuss the lifting of the advisory with Treasury officials.
The delegation included Wrenford Ferrance, the director of the Office of National Drug Control and Money Laundering Policy and Lebrecht Hesse, the chairman of the International Financial Sector Regulatory Authority.
The group met with a six-member U.S. government team including Deputy Treasury Secretary Kenneth Dam and General Counsel David Aufhauser.
In an official statement to financial institutions the Treasury department explained the rationale for lifting the advisory.
"Because of the enactment of new laws and the beginning of effective implementation, enhanced scrutiny with respect to transactions involving Antigua and Barbuda is no longer necessary. The advisory regarding Antigua and Barbuda is hereby withdrawn," the statement read.