New anti-money laundering law assented to

President Bharrat Jagdeo last Friday assented to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Terrorism Act. This disclosure was made by Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh on Monday, the Government Information Agency reported.

The Act was passed with the full support of the National Assembly on April 30 after spending almost two years in a Special Select Committee.

The government has been heavily criticized for not having such a law in place many years ago.

A less severe law was on the books for years but not a single charge was brought under it. During this period both Roger Khan and Peter Morgan, who have since pleaded guilty to drug charges in the US, operated here. Neither was charged with any type of money laundering or drug offence here.

The new law provides for oversight of the export and insurance industries, real estate, and alternative remittance systems, and sets forth the penalties for non-compliance. It also establishes the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) as an independent body that answers only to the President, and defines in detail its role and powers. It is unclear what work the FIU under the previous law did. The new law is believed to be a significant improvement on previous anti-money laundering legislation and covers, among other things, the freezing and forfeiture of assets owned or controlled by persons suspected of engaging in money laundering activities.

It provides for the unlawful proceeds of all serious offences to be identified, traced, frozen, and forfeited. It also provides for comprehensive powers for the prosecution of money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes and the forfeiture of the proceeds of crime and terrorist property. Included in the Bill are provisions requiring reporting entities to take preventative measures to help combat money laundering and terrorist financing and it also provides for the civil forfeiture of assets and “for matters connected therewith”.

Clause 110 of the Bill states that as soon as practicable but not later than six months after the expiry of the financial year, the Director (of the FIU) shall submit to the Minister responsible for Finance, an annual report by the FIU for that financial year. It says that the report shall comprise information on the financial affairs, operations and performance of the FIU including the amounts paid into the Consolidated Fund under the Act. The Minister responsible for Finance shall cause a copy of the report together with the annual statements of accounts and the Auditor General’s report to be laid before the National Assembly, within one month of receiving it, the legislation stipulates.

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