The Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo believes that the authority for the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Bill which was passed in Parliament on Friday last, will not be an independent body if it is being headed by the Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams.
He was at the time addressing media operatives during a press conference at his office on Church Street on Thursday.
According to Jagdeo, the way in which the Opposition contentions were railroaded by Government in the National Assembly was just an “example of duplicity at its worst.”
“Our big concern here is we do not have an independent entity provided for by this act to oversee the countering of terrorist financing or the proliferation of arms or weapons of mass destruction,” he explained.
Moreover, the Opposition Leader posited that his party intends to point this out to the Financial Action Task Force/Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (FATF/CFATF).
“…because now you have a politician being conferred with an enormous authority….undermining the FIU, which was supposed to police the act,” he maintained.
Last week, the amended bill was passed with Government using its majority, even though several worrying aspects of the Bill were highlighted by the Opposition.
A major point of contention was the AML/CFT Proliferation Financing National Co-ordination Committee and the fact the Attorney General, who has no expertise in the field of Finance, will be heading it, was also placed in the spotlight.
Another contentious issue raised was Section 7 (g,1) of the Bill which states that “the Committee, its assets, property, income and its operations and transactions authorized by this Act, shall be exempt from all taxation, including customs duty, consumption tax, capital gains tax, corporation tax, income tax, property tax and purchase tax, and the committee shall be exempt from payment of any tax or duty whatsoever.”
PPP Member, Juan Edghill had questioned “Who is this committee?” and further went on to lament on the members of the Committee who were identified as the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Governor of the Bank of Guyana, the Commissioner General of the GRA, the Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit, the Head of the Special Organised Crime Unit, the General Manager of the Guyana Gold Board and the Chairperson of the Gaming Authority.
“So the Attorney General is paying staff, which should be the duty of the Permanent Secretary. If you go to section 7 (b) of the principal act, (you will find that) the Chairperson of the Committee shall pay from the funds of the committee the salaries, fees, allowances of the staff of the committee, and any other expenses incurred by the committee in the performance of (its) duties. The Attorney General has now become the head of a budget agency. He is paying fees (of) the staff. The Attorney General!” Edghill said.
The Opposition also maintained that the provisions in the Bill facilitated political intrusion.
The US Department of State’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume Two of March 2018, had listed Guyana among many other countries deemed as “major money laundering jurisdictions in 2017”.
The report declared 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.