By Kurt Campbell
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Opposition Member of Parliament Joseph Harmon on Wednesday (February 12) defended their position to empower members of the Guyana Police Force and the Customs and Anti – Narcotics Unit in the fight against money laundering in Guyana.
Harmon is among three other opposition members sitting in the Parliamentary Select Committee considering amendments to the Anti – Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT)Bill.
At a recent session, the opposition members among other amendments had proposed that Senior Police/Customs Officers be provided with the ability to stop and search persons, and if such persons are found with $2M worth of currency or more it can be seized if the police has reasonable suspicion that it is the proceeds of or the subject of money laundering.
This amendment which has been rejected out of hand by the Administration, according to Harmon is simply to equip local law enforcement with the ability to deal with money laundering.
“The fact is that they do not want law enforcement to be able to touch the proceeds of crime and narco trafficking money and we have a major problem with that” Harmon told reporters.
He said it is government representatives in the committee who claim they do not have confidence in the police.
“We have confidence that the police can do the job, we believe that there is a positive role to be played by police in fighting money laundering and it is for us to give that support.”
Harmon accused the government of campaigning, both locally and internationally to protect money launderers.
“This campaign is funded with your money, money from the Office of the President … they are utilizing state resources to vilify the opposition.”
However, According to Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall the proposed amendment is susceptible to abuse and Government is concerned with the granting of such power to mere police and customs officers.
“Guyana is a cash-based economy. In the ordinary course of business, it is not unusual for Guyanese to have in their possession over $2 million in cash. For example the rice farmer after he reaps his paddy is paid in cash; a person who is building his house will go with cash exceeding $2M to buy his hardware items. A police officer or customs officer can seize those monies,” the AG argued.
“We are aware of the allegations of corruption against the police force and the customs department. This power in the hand of the wrong person can wreak havoc in our country. We believe that at least, there must be consultation with the Guyanese public before such a law is passed. In any event, this is not an amendment to the bill, neither is it part of the CFATF’s recommendations” he added.
Nandlall accused the APNU with intentionally misleading the nation about changes it intends to make to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Bill.