Steps to monitor non-bank financial institutions part of new US aid

The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) Economic Crimes is working with Guyana’s financial institutions to build capacity to combat and prosecute money laundering and procedures to better monitor non-bank financial institutions will also be on the radar, according to a US Embassy source.

Non-bank financial institutions such as cambios have long been a source of concern in terms of the role they can play in laundering proceeds and other crimes.

A sum of US$100,000 out of a grant of US$500,000 from the US Government signed last week between the United States and the Government of Guyana will be used to address weaknesses in the money laundering fight. Ambassador D Brent Hardt signed the agreement with Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett.

The agencies which would see capacity being bolstered are the Ministry of Finance, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Bank of Guyana, three of the nodes in the money laundering fight.

“Currently, OTA officials are conducting assessment visits and working alongside Guyanese officials to develop work plans,” said the US Embassy source. The person said that the issues to be addressed will include enhancing Standard Operating Procedures to monitor non-bank financial institutions.

According to the source, the US$500,000 programme is distinct from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Container Control Programme.  “The Container Control Programme is being funded by CBSI regional funds and will work with the Government of Guyana to address container security at Guyana’s ports,” the source pointed out.

The person explained that that the Amendment to the Letter of Agreement (Amendment) for FY2011 between Government of Guyana and the United States of America provides US$500,000 in additional CBSI funding to Embassy Georgetown.  “This funding will continue to support our efforts in law enforcement capacity building (US$150,000), and anti-money laundering (US$100,000).  A new funding stream, strengthening counter-narcotics control capabilities (US$250,000), will be provided to largely enhance communications to assist with identifying drug trafficking organisations,” the US Embassy source said.

The US funding is also expected to strengthen counter-narcotics control capabilities and enhance communications to assist with information collection and identification of drug trafficking organisations. It will be used to increase interdictions, seizures and eradication operations and to reduce the incidence of drug-related violence.

The release issued after the signing said that the agreement reflects the US Government’s commitment to deepen the security partnership with Guyana.

The CBSI is a multinational partnership between the US and the nations of the Caribbean designed to advance citizen security in the region. Through this initiative all partner nations are undertaking cooperative efforts to reduce illicit trafficking, advance public safety and security, and promote social justice. It was developed together with Caribbean governments and fulfils President Barack Obama’s commitment to deepened regional security cooperation made at the Fifth Summit of the Americas held in Trinidad in April 2009.

The latest International Narcotics Control Strategy Report out of the US State Department said Guyana’s money laundering legislation, the Interception of Communications Bill, and the Criminal Procedure Bill were designed to enhance both the investigative capability of law enforcement authorities and prosecutors’ ability to obtain convictions in drug related cases. “In 2011, however, there have been no convictions under these laws, and there is an apparent lack of political will to investigate and prosecute drug trafficking organizations,” the report said.

It said Guyana continues to be a transit country for cocaine destined for the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe and West Africa. “Cocaine originating in Colombia is smuggled to Venezuela and onward to Guyana by sea (fishing vessels, bulk cargo vessels and tug vessels) or air,” the narcotics report said. It stated too that because of because of Guyana’s porous borders, smuggling is also conducted by land from Brazil and Suriname into Guyana.

The US State Department’s report said Guyana has seen its political and judicial infrastructure impacted by narco-influence, “while its economy has become increasingly affected by narco-dollars.”

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