-Money laundering now a hybrid offence
Head of State, President David Granger, has signed into law tougher measures under the contentious Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act.
The amendments were successfully piloted by Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams, SC, ahead of the recent parliamentary recess by legislators.
The President gave his assent at the end of August and the amendments have since been published in the Official Gazette.
At the time he presented the amendments to the 65-member legislative arm of government for its approval, Williams had indicated that the changes sought to amend the principal Act with a view to making money laundering a hybrid offence.
He explained, “It can either be indictable or a summary offence.”
As a result of the successful amendments, the authorities are now given more time to prepare their cases if they are complex in nature.
The amendments also significantly increased fines under the law to not less than $200 million or more than $500 million for offending corporate bodies.
As it relates to the time constraints that had been imposed in the principal Act, the House heard that “the Prosecutor could only institute proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court within six months of the offence being committed.”
It was pointed out in the explanatory memorandum accompanying the legislative changes that “with the amendments, the offence is now a hybrid one and that the time limit provided for summary offences do not apply to indictable offences”.
As a result, as it relates to the instituting of proceedings against suspected money launderers, “the Prosecutor would have a longer time as no limitation for the indictable offences of money laundering is provided for by the statute”.
The explanatory memorandum further states, accordingly, “this amendment is important because more time would be given to the relevant personnel to conduct their investigations and prepare their case especially if the matter is a complex one”.
Opposition Member of Parliament Anil Nandlall, during the debate, had said that he checked the principal Act and noted there they were legislating to create an offence against a body corporate. An officer must be identified, either a director or company secretary for the purpose of enforcement, he noted.
Nandlall said he was under the impression that the Bill was intended to treat a particular factual situation, that is, not only increasing the period of time for those needed to be held in custody for potential prosecution but applying this retroactively.
If it is applied retroactively, it would be unconstitutional, he stressed.
Minister Williams at the time reminded the House, “There is no question of retrospectivity, since there only existed the principal Act when the new government took office”.
He said too that within eight months that changed with the passage of several key amendments, four within a short time.
Williams questioned why a body corporate could not be charged and noted the need for a longer period to conduct extensive investigations by authorities.
Only recently, the AML/CFT legislation was utilised to take action against two Guyanese nationals both convicted in the United States of America for their involvement in a plot to cause an explosion at the John F Kennedy Airport, New York.
The order was effected by Minister within the Finance Ministry, Jaipaul Sharma on August 29.
The Ministerial Order, which has since been officially gazetted, is titled the “Targeted Financial Sanctions (Specified Persons) Order 2017”.
Under that Ministerial Order, it was noted that the two specified persons were identified as a result of being targeted for financial sanctions in accordance with a United Nations Security Council Resolution #1373 and referred to under Guyana’s AML/CFT laws.
Abdul Kadir, a former People’s National Congress (PNC) Member of Parliament (MP), is currently incarcerated in a US penitentiary in Pennsylvania. He is also identified by the moniker “Aubrey Michael Seaforth”.
Abdel Nur, also known as “Compton Eversley”, is incarcerated in a North Carolina State Federal Correctional Institution.
The 2007 JFK International Airport attack plot was an alleged Islamist terrorist plot to blow up a system of jet fuel supply tanks and pipelines that feed fuel to the Airport in Queens, New York. These pipelines travel underground New York City in densely populated areas. The alleged plot was foiled when an undercover law enforcement official was recruited to the homegrown terrorist cell.