Teleconference with CFATF on anti-laundering bill postponed

This evening’s planned telecommunication conference with the CFATF on the vexed issue of the anti-money laundering bill will not take place as it is not on the agenda of this afternoon’s meeting of the parliamentary select committee looking at the legislation.

Opposition MPs had wanted the teleconference with the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) to clarify deadlines associated the controversial Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill.

Attorney General and member of the committee, Anil Nandlall, told Stabroek News yesterday that no decision was finalised for the teleconference and as it stands the key issue on the agenda for the midday meeting is still to have the “Chief Parliamentary Counsel reproduce the motions put forward by the APNU with a view of reproducing them into legislative language.”

Nandlall stated that the parliamentary counsel’s delay in producing the documentation was due to A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) proposed amendments being written in poor fashion. He said that the committee had to reach an agreement on when the teleconference would happen and that Friday was a possibility.

Nandlall noted that the opposition took months to finally produce amendments to the AML/CFT Bill, “and then when they did finally bring amendments they were to the Principal Act and not the legislation the committee was designed to review”. He said that a teleconference with the CFATF could not change those facts.

Nandlall continued that “I recall during the meeting the counsel (Cecil Durjhon) reported that what was given to him was incapable of being put in legislative language and that he needed further instructions”. Nandlall stated that “it has come to the public’s attention that after months of saying they had amendments the APNU finally put together something hastily.”

He said that “as time was coming close they put something together…the amendments were not even amendments to the bill but the Principal Act and they did not originate from the APNU instead they were cut and pasted from other stakeholders in an ad hoc way”. Nandlall told Stabroek News that the amendments created inconsistent positions. He said that “you can’t just insert two lines into a section of the bill or the act and expect consistency with the scheme of the legislation and also expect that it won’t collide with the provisions in the very same legislation that you are seeking to amend.”

Nandlall called APNU’s position inconsistent and noted that the CFATF end-of-February deadline for the AML/CFT (Amend-ment) Bill to be accepted and passed in the National Assembly is closing in.  The public has been treated to a series of deadlines from the government for the bill to be ready along with predictions of dire consequences were these not to be adhered to.

Meanwhile, Joseph Harmon, APNU’s representative on the committee told Stabroek News yesterday that since the next sitting of the National Assembly is next week, the opposition felt it necessary to have a teleconference with CFATF. He said that “because we have all these deadlines that are being set that we are not being made aware of, they (government) spring them on us and we are not being told about them,” in the initial stages. He said that today’s agenda was once again to discuss the proposed amendments to the Principal Act and that it is expected that Durjhon would be finished transforming them into legislative language.

Harmon told Stabroek News that APNU was ready to clarify any points of contention and that the special select committee had hoped that Chairperson and government representative, Gail Teixeira would have arranged the teleconference with CFATF.

“I don’t expect the conference because it was not on the agenda…normally a few hours before the meeting they will circulate paperwork,” Harmon noted. He said that APNU’s position was if the special select committee was once again adjourned that it would be imperative to speak with the CFATF. “We want to speak with the representatives of the task force… we need to be provided with deadline dates,” Harmon stated.

Guyana was not discussed at last week’s plenary meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Paris, France or recommended to go before the International Cooperation Review Group to be analysed as a high-risk jurisdiction. The government had wanted the bill to be finalised before this meeting, stating that the FATF could very well take action against Guyana. As it stands Guyana is still on the publically sanctioned list of the CFATF and will remain on that list until the task force is satisfied that Guyana is making strides in legislation and enforcement of legislation. CFATF has advised its members to take whatever measures were necessary to limit the risk of fallout from Guyana’s lack of adequate legislation.

The government and the opposition have been haggling over the legislation for around 10 months. (Pushpa Balgobin)

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