Regional group meets opposition over anti-money laundering law

A team from a regional financial body yesterday met with the joint opposition to address the need for amendments to the anti-money laundering legislation and it also made clear that passage of the law alone would not get Guyana off the hook.

The Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) team met with a group from A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change in what will be interpreted as a growing recognition in the international community that the opposition is in charge of the legislature. Previous visits by the CFATF to push for the amendments did not include meetings with the joint opposition.

An APNU press release today said that the meeting took place at the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. The CFATF team comprised Roger Hernandez, CFATF and C Murray- Bailey of the Trinidad and Tobago Anti-Money Laundering Unit. It was also accompanied by Michael Fraser, Political and Economic Chief US Embassy. The release said that Hernandez  gave a detailed overview of the organization of CFATF and the importance of legislation and a credible action plan to satisfy the requirements of the Task Force.

The two sides at the meeting (APNU photo)
The two sides at the meeting (APNU photo)

Hernandez’s account, according to the APNU press release, pointed out that the Guyana Government had been aware since 2010 that it was under scrutiny over its anti-money laundering provisions. He said that Guyana was evaluated in 2010 and put in an expedited follow up process. This required reporting every 6 months.  In May 2013 Guyana was placed by CFATF on a “Public Statement” for failing to meet deadlines and being non-compliant with all 16 requirements. The government did not go public in 2010 about the need for amendments. However, once it became aware of the May 2013 development it began to pressure the opposition to acquiesce to the amendments and eventually blamed it when the CFATF’s end of May deadline was not met. A new deadline was set by the CFATF for compliance. The government had originally given it as November but in recent days it has been listed as August. This means that the bill would have to be finalized before the House goes into recess.

The APNU press release said that both Hernandez and Murray- Bailey stressed that passage of legislation by Guyana would not be sufficient to remove the country from its present status.

“Mr. Hernandez said that legislation alone would serve to meet one key and critical elements of the compliance requirement, but it would not be enough to remove Guyana from the expedited status.  The CFATF representative said that what was required was Political commitment combined with an action plan”, the APNU release said. Critics have said that the Guyana Government has not taken real steps since 2000 on money laundering and the confiscation of assets from illegal activities. No charges have been brought and no assets seized despite the clearly evident operations of drug traffickers and launderers. Key offenders like Roger Khan were brought to justice in the US.

The government now faces the reality of having to work with the opposition on amendments to the bill and to put these into practice. APNU has signalled that it is forwarding its own amendments and observers say that some of these may be unpalatable to the government. The AFC has said it will not support the bill unless the government establishes the Public Procurement Commission and the President Donald Ramotar reverses his decision to not assent to two bills by the opposition-controlled legislature.

The opposition team at the meeting comprised Rupert Roopnaraine, Basil Williams, Joseph Harmon,  Jaipaul Sharma, Keith Scott and Mark Archer from APNU, and Khemraj Ramjattan and David Patterson from the AFC.

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