CHIEF Executive Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest), Mr. Keith Burrowes, has disclosed that investors have already started to query and express concern, both locally and internationally, about the non-passage of the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Bill.He said they are questioning, as well, the decision taken by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), urging Caribbean nations to implement whatever mechanisms to protect their financial systems from money laundering and terrorism financing risks emanating from Guyana.
Mr. Keith Burrowes
Burrowes, in an invited comment to the Guyana Chronicle, noted that the major impact on investment is through the self-fulfilling prophecy of perception, where investors perceive that the risks arising from Guyana’s ‘name and shame’ by the CFATF and acting on such perceptions, would reduce their investments both locally and internationally, thus reducing economic growth of the country.
The Go-Invest CEO said that consultations are being sought, by its management, with the Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Anil Nandlall, and the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, to grant foreign investors some level of comfort by explaining that the matter is being examined and resolved from every possible angle.
Burrowes lamented that the advisory against Guyana will hamper development of the country and there is no doubt that this ‘name and shame’ advice will effectively be felt by the investment sector.
“Both local and foreign investments rely heavily on the movement of funds in and out of the country and this system of transfer will be impacted unless action is taken to resolve the current state of affairs.
He added: “When I looked at the level of investment last year, as compared with this year, it has shown a clear reduction of investments based on the new measures that are being demanded for facilitating transactions.”
According to him, there is much perception on the part of investors for the implications of the advice, because those investors believe that it will negatively affect their investments and, as such, they have indicated that they will withhold theirs until the matter is resolved.
Burrowes, in consulting the Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Anil Nandlall, recalled that the latter had said investors who remit monies to the head office would be negatively impacted by the advisory.
The Go-Invest CEO, having had communications with a number of investors, noted that they have asked for their investment agreements to be placed on hold until word has been given of the relief in circumstances.
Burrowes mentioned that the investment agency is currently evaluating the full extent of the damage done by the advisory since it is unclear, at this juncture, what levels of reduction in investments would be recorded.
(By Derwayne Wills)
- Bill could be passed within 72hrs – AFC
By Abena Rockcliffe
Guyana’s fate has been ultimately decided at the Regional level; the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) yesterday told its members that it considers the country to be a risk to the international financial system. The regional body has therefore advised the implementation of further counter measures to be taken against Guyana in order to protect financial systems from the “ongoing money laundering and terrorist financing risks emanating from Guyana. As a consequence of failing to meet certain deadlines, CFATF has referred Guyana to its parent body, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which will take steps which may include Guyana being blacklisted at the international level.
This decision was made yesterday at the conclusion of CFATF’s plenary meeting which started on Monday in Miami, Florida.
CFATF reviewed the report submitted by Guyana which stated that “The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AMLCFT) (Amendment) Bill 2013 was presented in Parliament on April 22, 2013. The Bill seeks to address the legislative amendments required by the examiners’ recommended actions in the core and key Recommendations and a majority of the remaining outstanding Recommendations.
Following the legislative debate process in Parliament the AMLCFT (Amendment) Bill 2013 was rejected in November 2013. The AMLCFT (Amendment) Bill was reintroduced in Parliament in December 2013 and has been subject to consideration by a Parliamentary Special Select Committee which is yet to complete its deliberations for the Parliament to enact the legislation.
As a result, the CFATF Plenary Meeting resolved that a Public Statement be issued in respect of Guyana.
The statement noted that Guyana is being sanctioned as a result of the country’s failure to meet the agreed timelines in its Action Plan.
“As a result of not meeting the agreed timelines in its Action Plan, the CFATF recognises Guyana as a jurisdiction with significant AML/CFT deficiencies, which has failed to make significant progress in addressing those deficiencies and the CFATF considers Guyana to be a risk to the international financial system. Members are therefore called upon to implement further counter measures to protect their financial systems from the ongoing money laundering and terrorist financing risks emanating from Guyana. Also, the CFATF has referred Guyana to the FATF.
“Countermeasures could entail, among others, the requirement of enhanced due diligence measures; introducing enhanced reporting mechanisms or systematic reporting of financial transactions; refusing the establishment of subsidiaries or branches or representative offices in the country concerned, or otherwise taking into account the fact that the relevant financial institution is from a country that does not have adequate AML/CFT systems and limiting the business relationships or financial transactions with the identified country or persons in that country.”
CFATF is an organization of twenty-seven jurisdictions of the Caribbean Basin Region. It agreed to implement the international standards for Anti-money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT), Financial Action Task Force Recommendations (FATF Recommendations).
In November 2011, CFATF brought to the attention of its Members, certain jurisdictions including Guyana with significant strategic deficiencies in their AML/CFT regime. With a view to encouraging expeditious rectification of the identified strategic deficiencies, Guyana and the CFATF developed an Action Plan with identified target dates to address the strategic deficiencies that exist in Guyana’s national architecture to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
The CFATF issued a public statement in May 2013 recommending Guyana to take steps to ensure that it addressed its AML/CFT deficiencies. Additionally, in November 2013, CFATF issued a further public statement calling upon its Members to consider implementing counter measures to protect their financial systems from the ongoing money laundering and terrorist financing risks emanating from Guyana as a result of its AML/CFT deficiencies, in particular by: 1) fully criminalizing money laundering and terrorist financing offences, 2) addressing all the requirements on beneficial ownership, 3) strengthening the requirements for suspicious transaction reporting, international co-operation, and the freezing and confiscation of terrorist assets, and 4) fully implementing the UN conventions.
AFC SAYS Bill could be passed within 72 hours
Meanwhile, the Alliance for Change (AFC) sent a strong message to the government yesterday through the media, with Treasurer, Dominic Gaskin, stating that his party believes that the AML/CFT Amendment Bill could be passed within 72 hours if there is political will.
“It is time to cut the rhetoric and let us move things along. The people of Guyana demand no less of their leaders. The AFC proposes that a process to fast-track the operationalization of the Public Procurement Commission be implemented with the government naming two nominees to the Procurement Commission, A Partnership for National Unity naming two, and the AFC naming the other.”
Gaskin said these five names would be submitted to the Public Accounts Committee to ensure they meet the criteria for the Procurement Commission. This he proposed could be done within 24 hours. He outlined that the next stage of the process would see the National Assembly approving the nominees. Given the Government’s demand for Cabinet to retain a role in the award of contracts, the AFC has already indicated its willingness to compromise by amending Section 54 of the Procurement Act so that Cabinet’s right to raise an objection on the award of contracts is enshrined.
Once the House approves the nominees they could be sworn in.
“Following this, the Alliance for Change would have no hesitation in giving its support for the passage of the AML/CFT Bill,” said Gaskin.
Government maintains that the positions taken by the Opposition parties—A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and Alliance for Change (AFC)—are unfortunate, given the devastating consequences.
Aside from the government’s position, many entities have lamented the stalemate that characterized the Special Select Committee that was set up to address the AML/CFT Bill.
AFC leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, in a recent interview with this publication said “government will prefer its corruption in the absence of the Procurement Commission along with all the hardship that the Guyanese people will face with the anti money laundering bill not being passed, that is the caring nature of this government.”
“Just like how Dr. Luncheon said he (Attorney General Nandlall) doesn’t speak for him, he doesn’t speak for us either, and I don’t respect any interpretation which he gives to this set of facts, because when somebody else looks at the same set of facts it’s entirely different.” Those were the words of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Executive Joseph Harmon as he spoke to the Attorney
APNU Executive Joseph Harmon
General (AG) Anil Nandlall’s interpretation of a letter sent by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) pronouncing on APNU’s amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Bill. Nandlall was quoted as saying that government sent the Opposition’s draft to CFATF “and as I predicted, the CFATF rejected every single one of the amendments that they are proposing.” However according to Harmon “his interpretation of a factual situation is erroneous and if the public were to be shown the letter which came from CFATF and he should also make public the letter which was sent to them, we would be able to make a careful interpretation as to what his interpretation is and whether it is correct.” “The Chairperson of CFATF, Allyson Maynard-Gibson, said when she came here she can only make a determination of compliance or non-compliance when documents are formally sent to them, either from the National Assembly process to the National Assembly or from the full committee of the Parliament. I don’t consider CFATF’s letter to be a binding interpretation about compliance and non-compliance, but he (Nandlall) interprets it to mean that our amendments are rejected when clearly it doesn’t say that,” Harmon noted. Kaieteur News was able to peruse the CFATF letter which was sent by its Executive Director Calvin Wilson on behalf of the Chairperson Gibson. The letter is a response to one that was sent by the Attorney General on May 7, 2014. The letter addressed to the Attorney General read that inter alia “any advice on proposed legislations has to be given in the context of the CFATF’s main role as the reviewer of the implementation of the AML/CFT standards by CFATF member countries and the need to maintain impartiality so as to ensure the integrity and objectivity of the Mutual Evaluation process.” “It should be noted that the FATF [Financial Action Task Force] standards are minimal requirements and in most instances do not stipulate specific detailed measures,” said Wilson. In the letter section 2(2) of the AML/CFT ACT 2009 amendment was also outlined, where APNU removed the wording “Attorney General” where it appeared and replaced it with the word “Director”. It wrote that because the functions of the Director of the FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit) are closely linked to the application for Court orders to seize and freeze criminal proceeds of the listed entities, and those functions are normally carried out by the Attorney General who is the legal advisor to the government. CFATF did not say that it was “wrong”, which the AG insinuated, but said that “FATF recommendations do not specify any person or competent authority as being required to assume the above role. The assignment of such responsibility is at the discretion of each jurisdiction and the CFATF cannot definitively advise any country on any particular alternative.” The letter also pronounced on the amendment to sections 8 and 9, establishing a AML/CFT Authority where members will be appointed by the National Assembly, removing the powers of the Minister to appoint the Director and the power of the President to dismiss the Director, and placing these powers within the Authority, which will also be responsible for overseeing the operations of the FIU. CFTAF in the letter outlined that the said amendment appears to undermine “the autonomy of the FIU.” The body said that the proposed amendment which gives the AML/CFT Authority the power to “appoint and terminate the Director and Deputy Director without parameters will raise serious questions about the ability of these officials to perform their functions without undue influence.”
Attorney General Anil Nandlall
Wilson outlined further in the letter that “there is a need to consider whether the proposed structure and membership of the AML/CFT Authority will result in an effective means of appointing the Director and allow for the termination of appointment on the basis of just cause and not allow for undue influence.” Speaking to APNU’s amendment to extend the powers of a police officer or customs officers to seize and detain cash $10M or more anywhere in Guyana once the proceeds are suspected to be derived from illegal means, CFATF said among other things that the amendment “is a possible measure that can be instituted to comply with the obligations, and as such the CFATF cannot offer advice indicating a preference.” CFATF in the letter expressed also that “similar provisions are in place in Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines with safeguards which include limiting the initial period of seizures to hours and requesting approval for any extension of the period.” Nandlall had said in the media that the seizure of cash amendment “was rejected on the basis that it was not part of the requirement and that it is a completely unnecessary imposition.” According to Harmon, Nandlall’s interpretation “is the kind of subterfuge, double standards that we have had to put up with…Dealing with people in high office who can look at a clear set of words and give it a different meaning altogether. He is doing a disservice to the government; he is doing a disservice to the President, because when he does this thing and when it comes out then they want to know: Is this man on a different cloud?” Harmon who is also on the Parliamentary Special Select Committee to iron out the concerns of the AML/CFT Bill before it reaches the National Assembly said that “this is not the interpretation I would give to that letter”. “As a member of the Committee I am disgusted over the actions of the AG to try to hoodwink us; try to again fool the Guyanese public to believe as the Opposition we do not know what we are doing.”
The political opposition continues to prevaricate (quibble), even as Guyana is days away from facing estrangement from 190 countries for failing to pass the critically needed Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AMLCT) Bill. This Bill incorporates the recommendations of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, speaking on the National Communications Network (NCN) yesterday, said that the Select Committee considering the Bill was not able to meet over the last two weeks because “the Opposition members have manufactured one reason after one another for their unavailability to meet.”
At the meeting yesterday, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) failed to show up. Khemraj Ramjattan from the Alliance For Change (AFC) was present.
Guyana is required to have the Bill passed on or before May 26 or be declared non grata by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to its member states as a country that is non-cooperative in the global fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism. “This now seems a given,” Minister Nandlall said.
“All these amendments that they have proposed are in relation to the Principal Act, the Principal Act that they passed unanimously in the Ninth parliament. Now they have some epiphany and they want now to change all of these things which are not the recommendations of CFATF.” Nandlall said, “So it would appear at this point that it is unlikely that the Bill will be passed. What I presume or what I predict would transpire at the CFTAF meeting from May 26 is that simply a decision would be made to give effect to the decision which was already made at the November 2013 plenary. Guyana shall be recommended to the Financial Action Task Force in Paris, France for an ICRG (International Cooperation Review Group) review…and that in essence is the blacklisting we are speaking about,” he added.
Guyana has missed two deadlines to pass the CFATF cut-off date to pass the legislation; one on November 28, 2013 and the other on February 28, 2014. Guyana failed to meet the first time limit after the opposition used their one-seat majority in the National Assembly to vote down the bill, which led to the country being blacklisted at the regional level.
The second failure was due to the opposition at the last moment, proposing amendments, which are not related to the CFATF compliant Bill, but to the Principal Act, which was passed in 2009.
Minister Nandlall reported yesterday that CFTAF has rejected the Opposition’s amendments. After the CFTAF Chairperson Allyson Maynard-Gibson and the Executive Director of CFATF met with both the government and Leader of the Opposition and outlined the importance of passing the Bill and the consequences that would flow following non-compliance, the Government of Guyana was invited to send to the CFTAF for examination by its technical personnel for compliance, a copy of both the Government’s draft and the Opposition’s draft of the legislation, he explained.
In an effort to arrive at compromise, Minister Nandlall had presented counter proposals to the opposition’s recommendations.
For the reason that Government’s amendments were already approved by CFTAF, Minister Nandlall said that Government sent a covering letter along with the Opposition’s draft to the CFTAF, “and as I predicted, the CFTAF rejected every single one of the amendments that they are proposing,” he said.
One of the proposals calls for a removal of the role of the Attorney General from the process. “The CFTAF’s answer to that suggestion was that it is wrong. The Attorney General is put there because he/she is legal advisor to the Government and would be recipient of all legal materials that would come into the Government’s position in relation to its relations with organisations such as the United Nations Security Council and other international organisations.
“And it is the Attorney General that will have to go to court for and behalf of the Government to seek certain orders to give effect to the Government’s obligation under various treaties, and therefore the Office of the Attorney General is important in the legislative apparatus of the AMLCFT regime,” Minister Nandlall explained.
The Opposition also proposed that Parliament appoint an authority to oversee and supervise the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), its operations and officers.
Government has long maintained that this type of mechanism would undermine the functional autonomy of the FIU which by all international standards must be functionally independent and autonomous in the discharge of its day to day function, and as well, must be free and insulated from political interference and influence both apparent and real, a view shared by CFTAF. Minister Nandlall said that CFTAF has rejected as well this proposal.
“The CFTAF’s advice on that particular proposal of the Opposition was that it does not meet the international standards, that the mechanism for appointment is politically contaminated and that the method or the mechanism that it creates removes from the FIU and its staff and directors that important requisite autonomy and functional independence,” Minister Nandlall disclosed.
The third condemnation relates to what was submitted of the Opposition’s draft with regards to seizure of cash. This was rejected on the basis that it was not part of the requirement and that it is a completely unnecessary imposition, Minister Nandlall said. (GINA)