A number of recommendations have been made to the administrative arm of the Special Organized Crime
Unit, (SOCU) to strengthen and improve investigations expected to counter money laundering and other financial crimes in Guyana.
Among them is the need for specialized prosecutors and cash dogs in the area of combating these types of criminal activities.
SOCU, a local specialised unit probing financial crimes currently handles 285 investigations for which firms, companies and businesses suspected of financial crimes.
The Unit has been operating with assistance from the government, the UK, USA and other overseas counterpart agencies.
Following a five-week stint in Guyana, UK-based financial fraud expert Dr. Sam Sittlington granted a number of recommendations towards improving the work.
Sittlington also drafted and conducted a number of training sessions with the anti-money laundering crime unit. His work with SOCU encompassed closely monitoring its investigators and conducting workshops with officials from key financial agencies including the Bank of Guyana the Director of Public Prosecution, (DPP) and SOCU.
At the end of the programme, he made ten key recommendations for best practices on monitoring financial crime and conducting investigations.
In his proposal last Wednesday, Dr. Sittlington asserted that since investigating white collar crime is a new frontier for local crime fighters there is need for increased staff and financial resources, continuous training for SOCU and other stakeholders as well as expertise is in tackling financial crime and carrying out adequate investigations.
According to Dr Sittlington a specially trained group of prosecutors should be allocated to deal with matters of financial intelligence, asset seizure and other aspects of money laundering investigations to prevent the ad hoc approach to prosecuting crimes under the AML/CFTLegislation.
This, he said, would result in an increase in the number of successful prosecutions in the areas of money laundering.
At present SOCU is said to be operating with a head, a secretary, four investigators and three CID detectives who were seconded to work on a NICIL investigation.
Dr Sittlington called for the more administrative staff, analysts, a legal advisor and additional investigators, which he said is needed to adequately handle the investigations, set to unfold in the coming months.
The expert also spoke of a need for clearer funding and administrative direction for the department that the Unit may be more certain of its chain of command which will assist in definitiveness and effectiveness of SOCU’s investigations.
Among the other recommendations made by Dr Sittlington is the need for specially trained cash dogs that can sniff out cash in the same manner which dogs are trained to detect drugs and explosives at key ports of entry, a free flow of sharing of intelligence information between Financial Intelligence Unit, (FIU) Customs Anti- Narcotics Unit (CANU) the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU), the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Police and a future review of SOCU’s progress at the time limit of 68 months.
He outlined that follow up and evaluation on the impact of the project as well as the implementation of these recommendations can have huge effect on SOCU and the nation as a whole.
The specialized unit was established under the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) administration.
While under the PPPC, SOCU was without the essential protocols needed to operate as a specialised unit probing financial crimes. However, the Unit granted powers under the Anti-money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act AML/CFT (2015) currently operations under the purview of the Ministry of Presidency.
During consultations over the recently announced 2016 Budget, Minister of State Joseph Harmon noted that provisions are being made for the organization to be placed under within the Guyana Police Force.
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