May 30, 2015 News
By Abena Rockcliffe
This is most likely Guyana’s last chance to pass the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Bill. Failure to pass the piece of legislation before September could see significant impediments to international finance. This could be disastrous to the Guyanese economy.
United States Embassy Chargé d’Affaires, Bryan Hunt, said that such penalties must be avoided.
The envoy exuded much confidence in the new administration as he said, “I think they will be able to meet the deadline.”
Hunt said, “I think the sitting government understands the importance of the Bill. I have had the opportunity to discuss it with a number of Ministers, and it seems like they really understand the importance attached.”
Hunt explained that the reality is that, the Bill must be passed by a fixed date because of the commitments made to the international watchdog body Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Last October, Guyana was among countries that were identified with AML/CFT deficiencies following FATF’s review for compliance. An action plan was worked out between Guyana and FATF’s review body – the Americas Regional Review Group (ARRG) and timeframes were agreed upon.
On Thursday, the United States Envoy said that if the AML/CFT is not enacted prior to the next FATF meeting in September, there is a “strong possibility” that Guyana can be put on to a dark gray list or a black list of states, that are not taking effective measures to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
“The new government knows this; they know it is a priority. It is at the top of their legislative agenda just as it is one of the things that we (the United States) would hope the new Parliament would take off from the US side,” said Hunt.
Hunt added that he is “actually quite confident that the (Guyana government) will be able to meet the deadline that has been set by the FATF.”
He further noted, “The reason we continue to raise the issue, is because we want everyone in Guyana to understand how important it is that this takes place, because if we don’t see such a Bill, it is quite possible you can see significant impediments to do with international finance.
“(This) can be disastrous to the Guyanese economy which none of us wants, which is why we kept pushing it off. We pushed off as far as we can push it off… The experts in the international community will demand that Guyana show up with that Bill in hand.”
Guyana was previously able to avert being placed on a blacklist by FATF. The People’s Progressive Party/C (PPP/C) government and the opposition—which now forms the government—had haggled on the Bill for over two years but agreement was never reached.
The country was subjected to an “ongoing process in improving compliance” to ensure that it discharges its obligations under the Action Plan which was worked out with the ARRG and submitted as Guyana’s action plan.
The PPP/C government then delivered a letter to the FATF committing to remedy gaps in the country’s anti-laundering legislation, and FATF had indicated on its website that Guyana has made a high-level political commitment to address the loopholes within its anti-money laundering regime by working with both the international financial watchdog and CFATF.
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