Jul 28, 2018 News
…PPP red flags AG as Chairman of replacement committee
The National Assembly last evening passed a Bill that quashed the establishment of the controversial Anti-money Laundering Authority, effectively ending a process where several persons were identified to sit on the authority.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, steered the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Finance of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) 2018 which replaces the Authority with a new committee.
Williams stated that the Bill is to strengthen the regulatory framework and bring it in line with international standards to combat money laundering, terrorist and proliferation financing.
“Strengthening our regulatory framework will ensure that the requisite systems and policies are in place to prevent our financial systems from being exploited by launderers and terrorists,” Williams explained.
He said that the Bill addresses two important issues in that it implements a procedure to deal with targeted financial sanctions related to proliferation and establishes the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism and Proliferation Financing Co-ordination Committee.
As far back as 2014, the Authority was a hot-button political issue as Government and the Opposition debated its structure. In the end, Williams and the government got its way to implement the Authority.
People’s Progressive Party (PPP) MP, Juan Edghill, during the debate reminded that the Authority came about as a result of an Amendment Act #1 of 2015 under the Coalition administration and it was signed into law on July 10, 2015.
Subsequently, the bi-partisan Standing Committee of Appointment of Parliament in a report dated July 10, 2017, provided a list of persons to sit on the Authority. The report sat on the order paper and was never adopted by the House.
The names included Nicholas Deygoo, Captain Gerald R. Gouveia, Wayne Eucaulton Fordyce, Hance Manohar, Frederick Collins, Thomas Bissessar Singh, Mohamed Alli, Christopher Ram, Melissa Jessica DeSantos and Ms. Sadie Amin.
It was expected that one of those persons would have chaired the Authority.
However, Williams stated that in January, Government received advice that the Authority was not in compliance with Recommendation 2 of the 40 Recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which sets the global benchmark.
The Bill, which was passed yesterday removes the selection process from the Parliamentary Committee and sets out directly who will be the members of the Committee. According to the Bill, the Committee will comprise the Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, who will be the chairperson.
The other members will be the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Governor of the Bank of Guyana, The Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority, Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit, the head of the Special Organised Crime Unit, the General Manager of the Guyana Gold Board, the Commissioner of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, the Chairperson of the Guyana Securities Council, the Chairperson of the Gaming Authority and the Chief Cooperatives and Development Officer.
Edghill questioned the motive behind Government essentially rejecting the names put forward for the Authority and then inserting the AG as Chairman of the new Committee, which is to be established.
According to Edghill, Section 7 (B) of the Bill allows the AG to pay from the fund of the Committee, the salaries and fees or allowances of the staff of the Committee and any other expenses incurred by the Committee.
“So the Attorney General is now becoming the head of a budget agency. He is paying fees to staff. The Attorney General is the Chairman of the committee. I would like the AG to show, which FATF or CFATF recommendation this complies with,’ Edghill stated.
He declared, “This allows for political interference.”
According to Edghill, even more confusing is that the Committee reports to the Minister of Finance, which means that the Attorney General is now subservient to the Minister of Finance who in turn will report to Parliament.
“The power to Chair this Committee is no longer with civil society as envisioned by the Coalition. Is this Government confused?” Edghill questioned.
He also pointed to the omission of the key agencies from the new Committee, including the Commissioner of Police, the Customs Anti Narcotics Unit and the Deeds and Commercial Registrar.
Further, Edghill accused the AG of not bringing the truth to the debate. He noted, as a result of the actions of the Coalition in 2014, many Guyanese suffered.
“I would have thought that the very first words that the Attorney General would have said at this debate would have been a public apology to the people of Guyana for the suffering that they would have put them through as a result of the actions taken by them when they were in Opposition, when we were trying to get AML/CFT legislation passed,” Edghill stated.
Opposition Chief Whip, Gail Teixeira, said that the Bill should be withdrawn, but Government pressed ahead to pass the Bill with amendments.
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