I doubt there is another country as stupid as Guyana. My guess is this is the stupidest country in the world. What you are about to read exists in Guyana. It makes no sense to me and it will never make sense to me. I went yesterday morning with my wife and daughter to Republic Bank. Of the two pieces of proof of address, one was from the bank itself, addressed to my home.
The attendant asked for the envelopes. I enquired what envelopes. I did not know what she was talking about. She emphasised that you need to bring the envelopes that the letters came in. I had an official correspondence from the very bank of which I am a customer. My decibels were about to rise considerably but they didn’t, because I said to her ‘I don’t retain the envelopes my mail come in and those papers in front of you are proof of address’. She proceeded with my transaction.
Persons nearby heard my conversation and came up to tell me horror stories about this envelope request. And there were indeed horror stories. I decided to call the other banks to find out if the envelope request is policy. I did not get on to Citizen’s Bank. Mr. Raymond Ford, Deputy Manager of GBTI, Regent Street, indicated that the envelope request is routine at GBTI. The most interesting inquiry on this envelope thing came from Scotia Bank.
Senior Manager, Petra Allen, says she does not want to use the word, “envelope.” She prefers to speak of post office stamp. She stressed that her bank wants to see that the document in front of the teller passed through the post office system. If I have to write my journalistic memoirs, I will never forget my interview with Petra Allen of Scotia Bank on Wednesday, October 13, 2017.
Asked if Scotia will accept an important document like certificate of fitness from the police force that has a person’s address, she responded, “Mr. Kissoon how would the bank know if that is a valid paper?” to which I replied, “Well then every person that the police stop for papers and they show their insurance policy, then the policeman can say he does not know if it is a genuine document.”
She uttered, “I see your point.” Then I left her with these words, “Ms. Allen what you have just told me will leave the world in confusion.”
I had a creeping suspicion when I last wrote about this envelope stupidity that the banks were being idiotic and it wasn’t part of the anti-money laundering legislation. I rang the Deputy Governor of Bank of Guyana, Dr. Terrence Smith to ask him if it was the central bank that made the envelope stipulation. He said the bank does not deal with that; that I have to speak to the FIU people at the Ministry. Dr. Smith gave me the name of the Director, Mr. Matthew Langevine.
Mr. Langevine explained that the legislation (AML) stipulates that commercial banks must insist on proof of address, but in the AML, there is no mention of presentation of envelope. He said the guidelines for requesting proof of address is done by the Bank of Guyana. I told Mr. Langevine that Dr. Smith indicated to me that the bank doesn’t deal with what I want to know. Mr. Langevine advised me to go back to the Bank of Guyana.
I chose not to contact Dr. Smith again, but another official. I spoke with Mr. Joseph Lall, whose designation is “Banking Manager.” Mr. Lall said the central bank has not instructed commercial banks to demand envelopes. That is a thing of the banks’ own making. He explained all the central bank did was to lay down the guidelines for the commercial banks to follow and in those guidelines there is no mention of envelope.
But Mr. Lall’s interview had a satisfactory ending. He informed me that the Bank of Guyana is aware of the envelope controversy and is in discussion with the commercial banks about adhering to the AML while making banking customer-friendly.
He said from what the bank knows, the envelope request seems to be a problem.
I am not waiting for the Bank of Guyana to do away with the envelope nonsense. I plan as from today to consult my lawyer about the illegality of that practice. I will ask the court for an injunction restraining the banks from demanding customers to produce envelopes that any normal person would discard when they get a mail.
Sadly, no leader from the presidency to ordinary Cabinet member is going to offer an opinion on this oppression.
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