Private sector ups pressure over anti-money laundering bill

With an anti-money laundering bill still sandwiched in Parliament between the government and the opposition, the private sector today warned of growing and dire consequences for the business community.

In a full-page advertisement in all of the daily newspapers, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) said that with the failure to pass the beefed-up law by the deadline set by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), some countries have begun implementing sanctions.

“The Trinidad and Tobago Central Bank, for instance, has issued a letter to the commercial banks in Trinidad and Tobago regarding doing business with Guyana and engaging in foreign currency transactions. The letter, whilst cautionary in nature, has caused companies in Trinidad and Tobago to step up scrutiny of Guyanese companies with which they do business”,  the advertisement said.

According to the PSC there are reports that companies are not able to reinsure.  It cited no actual cases of this but noted that the inability to acquire insurance would have a negative effect on those seeking or servicing mortgages.

Guyana on August 26th,     2013 missed the deadline to submit documents on anti-money laundering legislation to the CFATF.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, speaking on the issue in June, had said that August 26th was the date given by CFATF as the deadline for the submission of documents necessary to qualify Guyana for a review which is to take place in November.

The November review was decided on by CFATF after it found that Guyana had failed to take sufficient steps to address its concerns by the original May 27th deadline.

Similar to efforts in the weeks and months preceding the May 27th deadline, government pressed  the opposition parties to have the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill sent back to the National Assembly and passed before August 26th, but a successful vote by the parties earlier in August to adjourn the work of the Select Committee until this month killed any such hopes.

A Partnership for National Unity has said that it was bent on giving the people of Guyana “a law that they can live with,” while the Alliance For Change has maintained that it will not support the bill until the government properly sets up the Public Procurement Commission.

The government had also been accused of dithering for years on the CFATF requirements. For a number of years it had been warned by CFATF of having failed to take action. With its parliamentary majority in those years, it would have been able to pass all of the amendments without requiring the support of the opposition.

In recent months, the PSC has called on both sides of the House to take urgent action to have the bill passed.

In today’s ad, the PSC asserted that many questions are now being asked about the legitimacy of Guyanese companies and their transactions which were previously routine and normal. It said that this has resulted in a burdensome process for transactions such as purchasing a foreign currency draft which now includes the completion of lengthy forms and the carrying out of a due diligence for each transaction.

The PSC argued that jurisdictions which are not compliant with the tenets of the anti-money laundering law run the risk of:

-correspondent banks increasing queries regarding customer transactions and beneficial owners

-cost of business rising as businesses attempt to offset losses due to increased restrictions and delays.

-certain correspondent banking relationships will be terminated and there will be curtailed access to foreign currency and cross border payment transactions.

Referring to the pending law, the PSC urged “Parliament to approve the measures in whatever form to avoid the disastrous effects on our business sector and the average Guyanese citizen”.

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