Govt proposes new law against money laundering, terrorism financing
– Ramotar hopes for opposition support
President Donald Ramotar is banking on opposition support for the proposed changes to laws against money laundering, saying it is one of the mechanisms being put in place to address corruption.
The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2013, proposes to amend the existing Act and related legislation by strengthening the mechanism to combat money laundering, financing of terrorism.
Recently, President Ramotar referred to the new legislation as part of efforts to address corruption.
“We do have issues and we have to try to work on them to eradicate some of the weaknesses in our system,” Ramotar stated.
He said that he hopes for a “unanimous support” when the Bill is debated in the National Assembly.
The Act adds a new offence – assisting a person to escape legal consequences of specified money laundering offences. In addition, fines for certain money laundering offences are proposed to move from $1 million to $5 million.
Clause 2 of the Act defines the concept of beneficial ownership of legal entities and requires the identification of the natural persons who ultimately exercise ownership of legal entities. It expands the meaning of negotiable instruments in the definition of currency.
Under the new Act, driver’s licences would no longer be used as part of identification records.
The definition of ‘terrorist financing’ is expanded to include fun
Clause 4 includes telecommunication providers among the agencies from which the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) may request information. It also authorizes the FIU to provide feedback to a greater number of reporting entities according to international best practices. Further, it increases the FIU’s research obligations to assess risks arising from new products, practices and technologies.
Clause 5 amends the Act by providing that professionals who transmit information or submit suspicious transaction reports in good faith remain free of liability for breach of confidentiality or professional sanction even if they did not know what the underlying criminal activity was and regardless of whether the illegal activity actually occurred.
Clause 6 amends the Act by requiring reporting entities not to open new accounts, commence business relationships or perform the intended or desired transaction and make a suspicious transaction report.
It advances the requirements for reporting entities to make deliberate decisions in continuing relations with politically exposed persons. It expands the due diligence obligations of reporting entities.
Clause 7 amends the Act by requiring the reporting entities to conduct enhanced due diligence measures for higher risk categories of customers or where the Financial Intelligence Unit is aware that another country does not apply or insufficiently applies the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force.
Clause 8 amends the Act to ensure that reporting entities also make records available to the competent authority and duly authorized auditors. It expands reporting entities obligations to report possible terrorist financing offences to include activities involving funds suspected of being linked, or related to or to be used for terrorism, terrorist acts or by terrorist organisations.
Clause 9 amends the Act by requiring reporting entities to ensure that their Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing for Terrorism compliance offices are equipped with adequate resources and independent personnel and that training is conducted on an on-going basis.
It also requires reporting agencies to assess risks and manage them before launching new products, business practices and new technologies.
The Bill gives sanctioning powers to supervisory authorities for breach of obligations by reporting entities, including the power to impose administrative penalties.
Clause 13 amends the Act to include the requirement for international travelers to declare bearer negotiable instruments.
The Schedule of the Act includes amendments to the Gambling Prevention Act to require the Gaming Authority to assess persons involved with an applicant for a license under the Act on the basis of “fit and proper” criteria and have them certified by the Bank of Guyana following the criteria under the Financial Institutions Act.
The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act is also being amended to provide for mutual legal assistance to be granted if the central authority considers it fit, notwithstanding that there may be preconditions that the request be related to circumstances which would be offences in both Guyana and another country.
The amendment also removes any technical differences in the categorization or denomination of offences which may otherwise prove a barrier for providing mutual legal assistance.
In addition, the Securities Industries Act is being amended to give explicit powers to the regulator under the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act, including expanded powers to prevent criminals and their associates from holding or being the beneficial owners of an interest in or holding management functions in companies regulated under the Act.
The regulator has clear authority to compel the production of records to ensure compliance in relation to money laundering, terrorist financing and proceeds of crime laws.
The Money Transfer Agencies (Licensing) Act is being amended to make dissuasive the penalties relating to failing to produce hooks for examination or obstructing an officer of the Bank of Guyana in carrying out his duties.
Other Acts which would be amended are the Foreign Exchange (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act; the Co-operative Societies Act; the Companies Act; and the Insurance Act, which is being amended to require the Commissioner of Insurance to ensure that criminals are prevented from being the holders of interests or management in insurance companies.