Guyana may once again be found non-compliant if it appears before a Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) review in November without any progress on the reform of the anti-money laundering law, Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall says.
Guyana was required to submit documents detailing progress made on implementing the Anti-Money Laundering Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Amendment Bill by August 26th.
Government made a submission, according to Nandlall, who says it was unable to report that the legislative component of the CFATF recommendations had been implemented.
Ahead of the upcoming assessment in the Bahamas during CFATF’s next plenary meeting in November, he is warning that the country is on a bad footing unless the bill is passed or if a specific date for passage is provided.
The bill was sent to a special select committee earlier this year after government attempted to have it passed. Since this time, government pressed the opposition to support the bill in time to meet the May 27th plenary meeting, and then again to meet the August 26th deadline.
At the meeting in May, Guyana was found non-compliant after failing to satisfactorily implement CFATF recommendations but it was able to successfully plea a case for more time to meet the body’s requirements.
An attempt was made by PPP/C MP Gail Teixeira, who is chairing the select committee, to wrap up the work of the committee and send the bill back to the National Assembly to be passed during the last final meeting before parliament went into recess in August. This bid failed, however, as the combined opposition moved and passed a motion to suspend the work of the committee until after the recess.
Recommendations made by CFATF were both legislative and non-legislative.
Non-legislative recommendations are just a fraction of the requirements and Nandlall says that government is working to implement those.
The legislative component, however, constitutes 90% of the recommendations made, and Nandlall fears that the country’s inability to include its report that the bill was passed on August 26th is troubling.
There is still a chance though, Nandlall says, f the government is able to report that the bill has been passed before the November meeting.
Or, he adds, if the government is able to say when the bills will be passed, it may serve as an indication to CFATF that the passing of the bills is imminent. CFATF has already asked the government, he says, to give a specific date by which they are expected to pass the bill. The government will not be able to do so, however, particularly since it does not command the majority in the legislature.
The inquiry was sent on Tuesday, Nandlall told Stabroek News, and he disclosed intentions to make the inquiry known to the members of the select committee as soon as possible.
Both the AFC and APNU have refused to support the passage of the bill for various reasons.
AFC Leader Khemraj Ramjattan has said that any support for the bill must be preceded by the government’s setting up of the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) and a reconsideration of the opposition bills which the president refused to give his assent to earlier in the year.
APNU, on the other hand, has argued that it is not comfortable with the bill in its current form and says that changes need to be made to ensure that it has “teeth.”
The passing and subsequent implementation of the bill or the impending penalties for the non-implementation of the bill will have monumental implications for the private sector. But even if the bills is passed, Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) President Clinton Urling says, nothing would have been accomplished if the complimentary regulatory and enforcement institutions are not set up. As far as he is concerned, the passing of the bill is just part of the requirement and he argues that the country may still find itself blacklisted if it passes the legislation but fails to “give the legislation teeth.”
APNU, which has indicated that it will not be moved by deadlines, has also stated that it has recommendations and amendments of its own to make in relation to the bill before it is sent back to the National Assembly.
Nandlall, however, while admitting that recommendations by various members of the public were heard and some included in the bill, said that he is unaware of any amendments or recommendations made by APNU. Furthermore, he said, the process whereby amendments and recommendations were considered has already concluded.