The anti-money laundering committee is to seek a teleconference with the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) as it continues a laborious process towards settling a bill which could rescue the country from the repercussions of blacklisting.
The decision to seek a teleconference came after a brief meeting last night as the two sides wrangle over what is essential and acceptable in the bill.
The chief parliamentary counsel Cecil Dhurjon has asked for clarification on a number of issues arising out of APNU’s proposed amendments to the anti-money laundering amendment bill, APNU MP Basil Williams stated yesterday.
After last minute efforts to have the amendment bill re-introduced and passed in the National Assembly failed on Monday, the committee agreed to meet yesterday to conclude its work.
But Williams, a member of the special select committee working on the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Amendment Bill, told Stabroek News that the amendments didn’t come through yesterday and a letter was sent by the legislative draftsman noting that clarifications were needed.
The meeting of the committee was adjourned minutes before 9pm yesterday after starting nearly two hours later than scheduled.
Jaipaul Sharma, another APNU committee representative, told Stabroek News prior to the meeting that the APNU amendments were “nothing strange.” He noted that the amendments to the Principal Act were along the lines of the Barbados legislation. He said that the Barbados model was taken from the Canadian model and caters for a body between the Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Minister. He said that the opposition was “looking at a structure not from the director straight to the minister, we want a body in between…Barbados has an authority then, they have the FIU and a Director.”
Chartered accountant Christopher Ram last year proposed the adoption of Barbados’ anti-money laundering legislation, including the creation of an Anti-Money Laundering Authority, to break the current impasse over the reform of the law and make the country fully compliant with its international obligations. Ram said that the Barbados legislation establishes an Anti-Money Laundering Authority that is responsible for maintaining oversight of the national AML/CFT framework, instead of a single individual as is the case currently in Guyana.
The authority, he noted, is made up of eleven members, drawn mainly from the key public sector agencies that relate directly to anti-money laundering activity, while the executive functions of the Authority are carried out by the FIU headed by the Director and comprising other public officers.
Chairman of the Committee Gail Teixeira yesterday called the amendments to the Principal Act “fundamental and complex,” while maintaining that they were hastily brought forth on Sunday night at the last minute. She stated that “these amendments are very far reaching and could very well lead to us being rejected by CFATF because we are bringing recommendations they never felt Guyana needed.”
CFATF’s parent body, the Financial Action Task Force, will conclude its plenary meeting tomorrow in Paris. Attorney General Anil Nandlall has warned that Guyana could be facing international blacklisting if it is brought to the International Co-operation Review Group within the FATF.
While the FATF meeting is closed, members of the government have warned that Guyana is on the list of countries to be reviewed for delinquency in passing AML legislation.
The FATF’s website, however, does not have Guyana listed as a high-risk or non-cooperative jurisdiction nor on the list of improving Global Anti Money laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Compliance or on the list of countries not making sufficient progress since October of 2013.
Neither Nandlall nor Teixeira could confirm if Guyana was indeed up for review by the FATF due to the meetings being closed. Guyana will have to wait until the end of the Plenary before knowing what actual action will be taken, if any, for failing to pass the AML/CFT amendment bill.
The two sides have haggled since May last year on the bill but the opposition has argued that the government neglected a series of deadlines set in previous years by the CFATF and that it could have easily made the amendments when it possessed an absolute majority in parliament.