The government will soon table amendments to strengthen laws to combat money laundering and other financial crimes, which President Donald Ramotar says is intended to meet international obligations and address spinoff effects of such corrupt activities.
Amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act of 2009 are complete and will be tabled in the National Assembly soon, in keeping with treaty obligations.
“There are a series of amendments that had to have been made in keeping with certain treaty obligations. They have been drafted and approved by Cabinet and are to be laid before the National Assembly in the shortest possible time,” Attorney General Anil Nandlall told Stabroek News yesterday.
He could not give a timeframe for the tabling of the amendments but noted that “time is of the essence.
President Ramotar, earlier at the opening of a Financial Crimes Stakeholders’ Workshop, co- sponsored by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union (EU) missions, pledged support to “follow the money to see where it goes.”
“Our actions are not only because we want to meet our international commitment and our international treaty obligations but it’s also important for the moral life in our society—fighting against these corruptions that these things bring about,” he said.
“We also appreciate how important it is in addressing macro-economic stability and also in addressing the rumours and allegations about money laundering and the parallel economy in Guyana. The rumours seem to be getting more intense these days,” he added.
The government’s commitment to combating money laundering has been frequently questioned, particularly in light of the lack of prosecutions. And with a May 27, 2013 deadline for the country to meet obligations, some private sector stakeholders are concerned about whether amendments will be passed in time, especially given the setbacks for the business community.
Ramotar acknowledged a meeting he had with the business community in Berbice, where stakeholders lamented corruption. He said that while in public offices bribes are received, it is persons from the private sector who are offering them. “Every official you see that collects a bribe, [it is] someone, mostly in the private sector, that offers that bribe. We have to deal with it from both ends. We must make it intolerable. We must make the morality of our society strong enough for anyone to resist giving a bribe and for any official to resist accepting a bribe,” he said.
Further, he stated that successive rounds of mutual evaluations have illustrated the extent to which Guyana has to go to effectively transform its commitment to actuality on fighting money laundering and terrorism. He informed that two major areas identified were investigation and legislation.
United States Ambassador Brent Hardt, in his address on behalf of the host diplomatic missions, pledged continued support to the fight against financial crimes.
“We appreciate Guyana’s willingness to work with us and with its Caribbean neighbours to investigate and prosecute corruption, enforce anti-bribery laws, fight money laundering, and deny safe haven to illicit assets. We stand ready to support Guyana’s commitment to strip criminals of their illicit wealth and sever their access to the global financial system,” he said.
“According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), criminals typically hide illicit proceeds in legal structures, such as shell companies or foundations. These companies often undercut and undermine legitimate entities, making it harder for legitimate business to survive and prosper. As it turns out, the Caribbean is a primary destination for illicit funds and shell companies. In fact, the United Nations reports that the Caribbean is the most important destination for the laundering of cocaine-related income,” he added.
Hardt said that he hopes that the input of the foreign missions aids in fostering a legitimate business-friendly environment, enhancing the international financial economy while strengthening security for all.
The workshop was facilitated by Roger Hernandez of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and Eamon Kearney of the Caribbean Criminal Asset Recovery Programme (CCARP).