Guyana likely to miss new deadline for passing anti-laundering bill

Guyana will miss yet another deadline by which it was expected to pass the Anti-Money Laundering Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Bill after the Select Committee looking at the bill failed to wrap up its work during a meeting last evening.

Additionally, Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall said that officials from the Caribbean Action Task Force (CFATF), after requesting and perusing the amendments to the bill put forward by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) has via letter, rejected those proposals.

The committee’s next meeting is on Thursday; one day after the last sitting of the National Assembly and three days before CFATF begins its plenary on May 26. But even if the political parties were able to figure out a way to get the bill back to the house before the meeting begins, or even before it is Guyana’s turn to be evaluated during the four-day plenary (it ends on May 29), the Alliance for Change (AFC) and APNU still have conditions to be met before they give their support to its passing.

The AFC requires government to set up the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) while APNU’s request is for President Donald Ramotar to sign several bills he has refused to assent to.

In a press release last night, Nandlall knocked APNU, whose representatives, he said, were not in attendance at last night’s meeting. AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan was in attendance. “The Special Select Committee to address the AML/CFT Bill met this evening, but the opposition party failed to turn up,” the minister said, according to a Government Information Agency (GINA) press release. A call to APNU’s Joseph Harmon saw the MP confirming that the coalition skipped the meeting, although he did not say why.

He did say though, that the next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, will be attended by APNU.

GINA also quoted the minister as saying, “Guyana is required to have this bill passed on or before May 26 or be declared non grata by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to its member states… this now seems a given.”

Nandlall also stated that CFATF officials have rejected the proposals to the Anti-Money Laundering Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Act proposed by the opposition.

The opposition proposed three amendments last year which they want passed along with the AML/CFT Amendments Bill. One of the proposals seeks to make the National Assembly the overseer of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). Nandlall though, said the CFATFs’ “answer to that suggestion was that it was wrong.”

Another proposal would allow for officials to be vested with the powers to seize up to $10 million at any domestic point once sufficient reasons exist. This proposal too, according to the minister, was “rejected on the basis that it was not part of the requirement and that it is a completely unnecessary imposition.”

The final proposal sought to take the powers from the Attorney General (AG) which currently gives him the authority to authorise seizures and other such actions. But, Nandlall said CFATF shared government’s view that “this type of mechanism would undermine the functional autonomy of the FIU which by all international standards must be functionally autonomous and independent…

“… As I predicted, the CFATF rejected every single one of the amendments that they are proposing.”

Guyana missed two deadlines in February and November of last year by which time it was urged to get the bill passed. All indications suggest the latest deadline will also be missed. CFATF officials had travelled to Guyana from their office in Trinidad three weeks ago to urge compliance, and to warn of the fallout if the latest deadline was missed.

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