- 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.”