Caricom urges passage of anti-laundering bill

Caricom Heads of Government are calling for Guyana to pass the anti-money laundering amendment bill, while warning of potential complications for the region in the event of the country’s failure to do so, Attorney General Anil Nandlall said last evening.

The call came after Caricom Heads of Government discussed the impasse between Guyana’s Donald Ramotar administration and the parliamentary opposition, at their 25th Inter-Sessional Meeting, which wrapped in Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines yesterday.

“The meeting noted with dismay, the fact that Guyana has been unable to pass the bill which incorporates the recommendations of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF). The meeting noted the implications it will have for Guyana, the Guyanese economy, the people of Guyana, and more importantly regional integration and the complications that will arise in the region should Guyana be blacklisted. The meeting decided to issue a statement calling on the relevant parties to pass the legislation with dispatch because of the complexity and the problems that will arise in the region and economic and financial activity,” Nandlall, who was part of the Guyana delegation, was quoted as saying by the Government Information Agency (GINA) last evening.

GINA noted that last Friday, Barbados’ Prime Minister Freundel Stuart wrote to President Ramotar to express concerns over the non-passage of the bill and its implications for the Caribbean. “Without any doubt, this situation and the threatened action by CFATF will affect Guyana and the entire Caribbean region, and will negatively impact the well-being of our people. I trust that during our inter-sessional meeting we will be able to discuss this matter in caucus, and see what other action we can take as a group to assist Guyana at this juncture,” Prime Minister Stuart wrote.

The full text of the letter was not released by GINA.

The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill is currently before a Special Select Committee of the National Assembly, where government and opposition are at an impasse over additional amendments proposed by the main opposition APNU to the main legislation. In addition, both APNU and the AFC, which hold a majority in the National Assembly, have also identified pre-conditions for their support of the amendment bill, including the establishment of the Public Procurement Commission and action on opposition bills to which the president has refused assent.

GINA said the Heads of Government meeting was expected to issue a statement calling for a resolution to the issue.

Guyana last month missed another deadline for the updating of the amendment bill, after the Chief Parliamentary Counsel Cecil Dhurjon was unable to complete drafting APNU’s amendments in time for them to be presented with the completed bill to the National Assembly.

Although CFATF is scheduled to hold its next Plenary in May, it required Guyana to submit in advance documents on any and all progress towards becoming more compliant with its requirements, which would include the passage of the stalled amendment bill. As part of its submissions, government was hoping to inform CFATF that the bill has been passed in order to avoid a call for stronger action to be taken against the country.

After Guyana missed the deadline for the enactment of the recommended legislative reforms last November, CFATF urged its members to consider implementing measures to insulate themselves against financial risks emanating from the country, saying it has failed to take sufficient steps to reform its anti-money laundering deficiencies.

Roger Hernandez, of CFATF, who visited Guyana to brief the parliamentary select committee about compliance last month, expressed concern about APNU’s amendments. As proposed now, the bill itself without any additional amendments is compliant with the recommendations that were made concerning Guyana meeting the CFATF standards, he explained. Without naming APNU, he had said that there are certain concerns arising out of some of the proposed amendments. Hernandez said there are “two perils” going forward with the proposed amendments. “Some of the amendments that have been put forward deal with previous areas of the Act that were deemed compliant. The concern that we have is that the amendments being put forward may make those areas that were formerly compliant, non-compliant. There is a risk with that,” he said.

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