Letter: In Guyana the FIU has now become a political weapon

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Dear Editor,

When in Opposition this Government knew all the right answers for every aspect of good governance. According to them, they knew that the AML/CFT Bill proposed by the PPP/C Government was deficient and that was the reason they could not have supported it in the National Assembly.

Immediately upon holding the reins of power, our ‘erudite’ Attorney General, Mr Basil Williams on 26th June, 2015 successfully piloted the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Authority even though the former Attorney General Mr Anil Nandlall had pleaded that the’ creation’ of such an Authority would undermine the independence of the Financial Intelligence Unit(FIU) and is contrary to what the AML/CFT Task Force had wanted.

Over three years after, AG Williams has finally admitted that he said that at that time the Government did not understand what was really happening, he said that, ‘We weren’t in the loop’ and now they are taking corrective action. But is this the ‘correct action’? The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism and Proliferation Financing (AML/CFT/PF) National Coordination Committee which is headed by Attorney General Basil Williams, who is also Chairman of the PNC, is far worse than the Authority which is now defunct. There are no pretensions whatever that this Committee will ever act independently and objectively. This is following in the same settings as SOCU and SARU and will not be devoid of political direction and control. This Committee will give an umbrella of total control over the FIU.

We have seen in Trinidad and Tobago that the Director is the Head of the FIU and is responsible for the supervision and implementation of policies with respect to the Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism in accordance with the FIU Act and any other laws.

The FIU is also the oversight and monitoring body of the AML/CFT. In Guyana the FIU has now become a political weapon for APNU/AFC Coalition Government.

Unlike the now defunct AML/CFT Authority and the AML/CFT/PF of Guyana whose heads are appointed by the National Assembly. It must be noted that the Director of the FIU, the Deputy Director and other senior functionaries of the FIU are all appointed by the National Assembly.

We know that the National Assembly is controlled by the APNU/AFC, they have the majority therefore whoever they appoint will take effect. Consequently, the appointment of AG Basil Williams as the Head of the AML/CFT/PF as pointed by Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo  we now “have a politician being conferred with an enormous authority….undermining the FIU, which was supposed to police the act”.

All these appointments will be strictly political there is no room for objectivity and impartiality, fairness and justice.

Moreover, apart from Financial Intelligence Unit being independent and operating autonomously, they should possess expertise in finance and financial analysis and they should be able to exchange information directly and independently.

It is evident that Mr Williams is no ‘expert’ in finance and financial analysis and is definitely ‘NOT FIT AND PROPER’ to be the person in charge of the Committee. But as the Chairman of the PNC his ‘expertise’ in witch-hunting may be necessary!

On the other hand, the Director and the Deputy Directors of the T&T FIU are appointed by the Public Service Commission. In addition, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance in T&T appoints the other members of staff after consultation with the Director.

This applies to consultants and experts as well who are employed on a contractual basis. This is how our system should be modeled.

It is time that the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), which is an organization of states and territories of the Caribbean Basin to vehemently object to this type of political interference.

It must be noted that the CFATF have agreed to implement ‘COMMON MEASURES’ against money laundering and terrorism financing. I must submit that the Anti-Money Laundering measures in Guyana are by no means ‘COMMON’.

It is evident now that this Coalition Government now has another highly potentially destructive weapon added to its burgeoning arsenal to continue its ‘witch hunting’ attacks against the PPP/C and its supporters.

Yours sincerely,

Haseef Yusuf

RDC Councillor-Region 6

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