Jun 27, 2015 News
By Nicholas Peters
After a tumultuous past, the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill, was passed in Parliament last evening.
The passage of the Bill will strengthen the Government’s capacity to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism. As the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) was absent from the National Assembly, the passage of the Bill was met with no resistance.
Presenting the Bill was Attorney General Basil Williams. He was the first to acknowledge the controversial past of the Bill. Williams said that despite the passage of an Anti-Money Laundering Act in 2000 and the CFT Bill in 2009, respectively; no one was ever investigated, charged or committed under the previous administration.
The AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill was not passed in previous House sittings under the 10th Parliament due to a lack of consensus in the House, which led to Guyana’s being “grey listed” on the global market.
Williams lauded the legislature for its amendments which would ensure transparency at all levels of its enactment.
Among the amendments were some major changes to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). In accordance with the Act, the AML/CFT Authority and the FIU will have to liaise to attain “maximum coordination” to achieve the objectives of the Act.
He said that with the amendments to the Bill the National Assembly will, by a majority; and on the recommendation of the Parliamentary Committee on Appointments, appoint the AML/CFT Authority which will have 10 members.
“They will be appointed by a transparent process that is by the Parliamentary Committee of the National Assembly of Guyana, after which they will come to the House for application and approval,” said Williams. He added that when the positions are operational they would have gone through the right consultations and be advertised.
The Attorney General said that the AML/CFT Authority will in no way rob the FIU of its independence. In fact, Williams said that provisions clearly state that the Authority will not interfere with the daily operations of the FIU.
“They are merely for policy guidelines to give policy guidance for the FIU,” added the Attorney General.
During his presentation, Williams addressed the amendment dealing with the role of Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) which would be served by senior Police and Customs Officers. This was an amendment to which the PPP/C had rejected. This amendment would allow officers to seize monies in excess of $10M in a person’s possession, once the money is suspected to be the proceeds of money laundering or intended to finance terrorism.
“It can’t be done whimsically or capriciously. The Bill requires cogent evidence. That means they cannot seize cash in possession of persons doing business or engaged in trade or commerce,” Williams assured.
He reiterated that in addition to high or reasonable suspicion, their needs to be evidence since officers cannot seize cash in business or commerce.
Seconding the Bill was Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, who outlined the benefits it will have for the economic accountability of the country. He said that without the Bill a parallel “illegal” economy will exist which will be detrimental to Guyana’s official economy.
“If the illegal sector forms a significant part of the economy and criminal proceeds are withheld from the formal banking system, then official on data on employment, consumption, foreign exchange and so forth will not reflect the economic realities of the country.
Policymakers will have a difficulty of establishing a state of the economy and formulating appropriate economic policy,” said the Finance Minister.
He noted that the Bill was a result of tremendous work from a wide cross section of people fighting the “twin evils” of money laundering and financing of terrorism. Jordan added that the legislature amendments represent the firm resolve of the Government to tackle these illegalities.
Now that the Bill is passed by the National Assembly, it will be sent to the President for assent.
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