By Jomo Paul
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall has once again raised concerns over some amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Bill 2015 which is scheduled to be laid in the National Assembly on Thursday, June 25.
One of the most contentious amendments in the Bill is where it seeks to limit the amount of cash an individual is allowed to have on his person at any given time to $10M.
In the new Bill, Clause 17 inserts a new section – 37A in the Principal Act to provide that a police officer, a customs officer or a person authorised by the Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit may seize and detain cash anywhere in Guyana where the amount is more than ten million dollars.
It also stated that this is done when authorities have reasonable grounds for suspecting, for instance, that the currency is derived from a serious offence or is involved in money laundering or terrorist financing.
At the moment, by law, a person is only allowed to have $2M on his person; however this stipulation is widely ignored. Nandlall told iNews on Wednesday, June 23 that the amendment places upon the citizenry an undue burden of establishing that their money is not the proceeds of money laundering or crime.
“In fact what it does, it presumptively concludes that any amount of ten million and more, found in possession of a person is the proceeds of money laundering and crime,” said the Former Attorney General.
He also pointed out that the amendment would have some effects on the cash flow, noting that Guyana is primarily a cash based economy, with a small amount of persons opting to use debit and credit cards instead of liquid cash.
“The situation is compounded when one takes into account the wide definition of cash in the bill. Cash is defined to included money, jewellery, cheques and other bills of exchange…I am aware that the business community as well as the ordinary Guyanese citizen are opposed to that provision being put in the law. The people told us that they do not wish to vest that kind of power in police officers or any agency. This will drive another nail in the coffin of the economy of Guyana – business will now report not to have capital – liquidity will now become even scarcer with this requirement,” Nandlall told iNews.
He pointed out also that the amendment is not recommended by neither the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) or the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) questioning “what is the rationale for including such a draconian measure in our laws especially since Guyana is a cash based economy where ten million dollars is not an unusual amount of cash for persons to carry around?”
Expanding further on his stance against the amendment, Nandlall suggested that the amendment was initially made because the A Partnership For National Unity (APNU) did not want to support the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration Bill.
“It was inserted in the first place because they did not want to support the PPP/C administration Bill…so they came up with this very clumsy proposal. Their ego now prevents them from rescinding from their position but it is simply not good for Guyana,” he stated adding “a person must be allowed to have any amount of cash and he must not be subject to any form of harassment. He must not have to prove anything. The mere possession of $10M cannot subject a person to a criminal investigation…because it is not a crime to possess money. It is a crime to possess money that is the proceeds of crime.”
Concerns were also raised with respect to the traceability and recovering of the cash that is seized by the authorities if it ever comes to that.
“When that money is lodged in the police station who will guarantee its safety? Where will it go? Is it going to stay in the police station, how long will it stay in the police station? How long will it take for the person to get back his money?” questioned Nandlall.
However it should be noted that the Principal Act of 2009 states that the monies seized can only be confiscated for three days unless otherwise ordered by a High Court Judge.
The Principal Act also defines cash as coins and notes in any currency, postal orders, traveller’s cheques banker’s drafts, bearer bonds, or bearer shares.