Kurt Campbell reports…
The Guyana Government has strengthened its capacity to fight money laundering and terrorism financing with a swift passage of the controversial Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill on Friday night .
The passage of the Bill was not met with any resistance in the House as the opposition People’s Progressive Party remained empty and Finance Minister Winston Jordan made a supporting presentation for the Bill’s passage.
Attorney General Basil Williams was the first to acknowledge the “checkered” past that the Bill has endured in the National Assembly; having been subject to delays as a result of the stark difference the government and opposition shared on the amendments to be made.
Williams in his short presentation brushed aside the PPP’s rejection of an amendment to allow Senior Police and Customs Officers to seize monies in excess of $10M in a person’s possession, once the money is suspected to be the proceeds of money laundering or to finance terrorism.
“It can’t be done whimsically, it requires cogent evidence that means they cannot seize cash in possession of persons doing business or engaged in trade or commerce,” Williams assured.
He added “They can’t wake up and target people; they must be armed with information and evidence given to them.” Williams say any acts of victimization using this particular amendment, which has generated a lot of interest, will expose law enforcement officials to malicious prosecution.
The passage of this AML Bill is expected to bring Guyana in compliance with the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) under which Guyana was tasked with strengthening deficiencies in its AML/CFT regime. CFATF will now have to review these amendments and verify whether it is in compliance with its recommendations.
The passage of the amendments will save Guyana from any likelihood of financial blacklisting.
In November 2011 the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force brought to the attention of its members that certain jurisdictions including Guyana had 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 existed in Guyana’s national architecture to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
The CFATF issued a public statement in May 2013 recommending that Guyana took 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.