…warns that AG’s ‘mistruths’ has put nation to face more rigorous financial scrutiny
Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Basil Williams has misled the Guyanese nation, more specifically the business community and local financial institutions, by insinuating that Guyana was free and clear with respect to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) regime.
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo said the false sense of security that Williams attempted to foist on the nation could in fact cause the country to repeat mistakes and jeopardise major sectors of the economy, specifically the economic sector.
According to a Guyana Times report, Jagdeo gave the damning warning on Thursday, and said Williams had attempted to give the impression that Guyana was free and clear of the FATF/CFATF regimes since the country had successfully exited the third round of evaluations by the international community with regard to Guyana’s Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime.
“This is not so,” Jagdeo declared. The Opposition Leader said that while Guyana has, in fact, concluded its third-round evaluation, it was now subjected to a fourth round of evaluation which would entail more rigorous compliance measures, including the actual prosecution of money laundering offences.
“What will happen is under this review, they will be required to go after actual cases,” Jagdeo said.
He suggested that instead of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) obtaining a list of nine former Ministers from the Ministry of the Presidency to target, “they will have to go after people that engage in money laundering and if they don’t, they will fail and jeopardise the financial system”.
Jagdeo recalled too that Williams had hinted at mutual evaluations following the successful exit from the third round of evaluations, but that was a misnomer, since Guyana would not be evaluating FATF or CFATF, as it would be the other way around.
The former President said the fourth round of evaluations relates to technical compliance and not simply adhering to recommendations made and that will be difficult to attain.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said.
The Opposition Leader noted that Williams had said “we were free and clear…we were happy and good with the international community regarding money laundering issues”, but “this is not so”.
According to Jagdeo, “we may very well find that we are not compliant in applying this (AML/CFT) Act” when again evaluated.
The former President, a Moscow-trained Economist, used the occasion to again bemoan the fact that the predicament that the country was in could have been avoided had A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC), while in Opposition, supported the amendments promulgated by the then Government.
“We could have avoided a lot of this had they supported us from the beginning when we made two attempts to pass recommendations that would have made us compliant.”
Speaking to the false sense of security that Williams attempted to finagle on the nation, Jagdeo pointed to recent statements by the Attorney General, which suggested that local financial institutions were now able to transact business without enhanced security measures in place, highlighting that that was “not true”.
He elaborated saying if one were to venture to a local bank, it would be observed that there was no change in the requirements for transacting business, including the opening of accounts or the sending and receiving of monies overseas.
Local financial institutions, including local banks, have not seen any dramatic change in their relationship with correspondent international banks as a result of Williams’ pronouncements, Jagdeo said.
“We cannot play games with the future of the financial sector…A thriving economy is built on a solid, sound financial system and sector,” the Opposition Leader stressed.
The Times report also said Jagdeo warned that by looking to score cheap political points, the Attorney General ran the risk of jeopardising the local financial sector, and this was further compounded by the international trend towards “de-risking”.
This refers to international financial institutions and countries looking to distance themselves from non-compliant regimes. “If that happens and it snowballs out of control, I had spoken about us going back to Stone Age in terms of financial sector development and growth,” he said.