Attorney General Anil Nandlall has slammed the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government’s track record in anti-money laundering as dismal, noting that while it passed laws, it failed to convict even one money launderer of any repute.
In an interview Inews, Nandlall pointed out that while the former Government did pass the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) bill, they completely failed to enforce the Act.
“That is largely because SOCU (Special Organised Crime Unit), the investigative arm of the AML/CFT structure, was completely bastardised and converted into a Unit that carried out political persecution on behalf of the previous Government, rather than investigate AML/CFT type complaints,” he said.
“That must radically change. There will have to be a complete reorientation of SOCU so that it can discharge the mandate which it was established to discharge. That is, to investigate exclusively information supplied to it by the AML/CFT structure and to institute charges where necessary.”
Nandlall noted that SOCU was supposed to also work in collaboration with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to prosecute those accused of money laundering. According to the Attorney General, SOCU will be reoriented to carry out its proper mandate.
“I’m optimistic that SOCU will be reoriented and properly staffed. And will be free from political direction. And be permitted to discharge the functions that it was conceived and designed to discharge.”
Even former AG Basil Williams has admitted that SOCU has failed to live up to its mandate under his watch. This ranges from the Unit failing to carry out successful investigations to failed prosecutions.
The Unit has had several of its cases thrown out of court and has been weighed down with scandal and corruption. Most notorious in these scandals were the discoveries made by an audit that persons in the Unit were misusing its finances and covering their tracks with forged invoices.
The order paper for the 2nd sitting of the 12th Parliament, which is scheduled for September 9, meanwhile lists the 2018 Annual Report for the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) as one of the reports to be presented.
For some time, the PPP, and particularly its point man on legal matters, Nandlall, has been critical of the former Government’s failure to table FIU reports in the National Assembly, despite this being a requirement under the AML/CFT law.
This failure has been described not only as a blow to transparency, but also one that put Guyana at risk of Caribbean Finance Action Task Force (CFATF) sanctions. Asked about the presenting of the report, Nandlall lauded the development.
“I am pleased that the FIU will be laying that report in the National Assembly, which is a statutory requirement. In that way, the National Assembly and by extension the people of Guyana, would be informed of the work that the FIU is doing. And the work of the AML/CFT structure.”
“It is imperative for that information to be made public so that the Government of Guyana and the people would be aware not only of the work of the FIU, but more importantly that we are complying without international obligations. And if we are not, what challenges we face.”
He noted that Guyana has learnt the hard way what happens when the country is delinquent, a reference to when Guyana was once at risk of being blacklisted because the AML legislation was not being passed.
And Nandlall reminded that Guyana was in this position because the then combined APNU and AFC opposition used its parliamentary majority to block the passage of the bill, rather than support it.