No ‘unusual powers’ granted to executive in anti-laundering amendment – AG

Attorney General Anil Nandlall has rejected a charge by Opposition Leader David Granger that the anti-money laundering amendment bill gives excessive powers to the Executive, saying that it is no different from similar legislation around the world.

“…I reject the notion or allegation made by the Opposition Leader that the Bill resides any unusual amount of power in the Executive or that it is different from legislation of similar type existing elsewhere,” Nandlall said in a statement yesterday, in response to an assertion made by Granger on Friday.

While he said the bill is unusual as it confers exceptional powers on all officers and entities named because of the very nature of the legislation, he also noted that he refined sections of the proposed amendments to reduce the powers of the executive.

Meetings continued yesterday by the special select committee set up to complete work on the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill. Main opposition coalition APNU has pledged its cooperation in the committee but also recently demanded that President Donald Ramotar assents to or commits to a process to assent to bills he has turned away as a condition for its support.

Nandlall explained that the bill which is before the select committee is part of a modern legislation which has been enacted in every country in the English-speaking Caribbean, the Commonwealth, and in North America. “…The powers which this Bill resides in the various officers and entities mentioned in the Bill are similar, if not identical to, that which have been given to the same officers in like legislation worldwide,” he argued.

Nandlall said the bill came directly out of recommendations of Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and is intended to advance “exceptional remedies to suppress exceptional mischief,” such as money laundering, drug trafficking, arms trade and terrorism. He added that there is no difference between the bill and other legislation enacted under AML/CFT international regime as promulgated by virtue of recommendations made by the world body the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

He also noted there is no different regime of powers resided in any officer in the Guyana legislation which are not given in similar legislation which is extant in countries across the globe.

According to Nandlall, he in fact refined many of the recommendations which came from the CFATF, with a viewed of reducing certain powers which were recommended to reside with Ministers in the bill.

He said it was originally recommended that the Attorney General have powers to instruct a commercial bank to freeze any account held at that bank which the Attorney General had reasonable suspicion to believe contains proceeds of crime. “I refined that recommendation to say that the Attorney General must apply ex parte to a judge for an order to freeze the account, and must be able to satisfy that judge that he has credible and reasonable basis to suspect that the account contains proceeds of crime,” he pointed out. “I specifically, shifted that power from the Attorney General to a judge, because I believe that the Executive branch of Government should not enjoy such plenitude of power over the citizenry as there would be a likelihood of abuse. So I shifted that power to the Judicial branch of Government,” he explained, while adding that it was only one instance of several where he reduced powers which were recommended to be resided in the Executive.

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