The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill 2018 was read for the first time in the National Assembly last evening (Thursday).
The reading of this bill paves the way for the passage of new legislation that will ensure Guyana is in compliance with all 40 recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and other regulations.
The Bill, which was read by Attorney General (AG) and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams, will also see the establishment of a national committee to tackle money laundering in all facets of Guyanese society.
The Bill seeks to amend the AML/CFT Act and related legislation to strengthen the regime for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and proliferation financing (AML/CFT/PF).
Clause three of the Bill amends section 7A of the principal Act to satisfy recommendation 2 of the FATF which states that countries should designate an authority to have a mechanism that is responsible for national AML/CFT/PF policies.
This will see the establishment of the AML/CFT/PF National Coordination Committee.
This Committee will comprise of the Attorney General, as Chair; the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP); the Governor of the Bank of Guyana; the Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA); the Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU); the Head of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU); the General Manager of the Guyana Gold Board; the Commissioner of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC); the Chairperson of the Guyana Securities Council; the Chairperson of the Gaming Authority and the Chief Cooperatives and Development Officers.
Some of the Committee’s responsibilities will include developing national AML/CFT/PF policies informed by the risks identified in the recently-completed National Risk Assessment and to develop a national action plan which includes recommendations to enable the respective agencies to competently tackle money laundering and related crimes.
Only recently, at the Money Laundering/Terrorist Financing National Risk Assessment Seminar, Williams underscored the importance of coordination and information sharing among related agencies in the fight against money laundering.
The US Department of State’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) Volume Two of March 2018 has listed Guyana, among many other countries, as “major money laundering jurisdictions in 2017”.
The report declared that there was a lack of strong interagency cooperation among Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and drug-fighting agencies, adding that these departments did not have adequate human resources and the necessary training for complete effectiveness.
The report has called for more training, education, and resources to improve the fight against money laundering. In its 2018 overview of Guyana, the INCSR posited that “narcotics trafficking and Government corruption are the primary sources of laundered funds”. Other issues outlined were human trafficking, illicit gold mining, contraband, and tax evasion.
Only last month, former AG Anil Nandlall accused his successor, Williams, of conveying the impression that the country was compliant with the AML/CFT requirements, based on statements he had made in the National Assembly.
He had pointed out that Williams admitted in Parliament he was informed by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) that amendments made to the AML/CFT Amendment Bill in 2015 were in violation of the international guidelines.
Williams, he had observed, told the House that he was also directed to remove them from the legislation.
Nandlall recalled that when the coalition took office in 2015, the first Bill it passed was the AML/CFT Amendment Bill, Number 1 of 2015. It was tabled at the very first sitting of the 11th Parliament.
The former AG had also noted that while in Opposition, the now Government caused Guyana to be blacklisted by the CFATF, and to be sanctioned internationally. “Now in Government, they have caused the very same thing to happen!” he posited in March.