Aircraft owners in plea for anti-laundering bill

-AFC holds to demand for procurement body

The chorus of calls from the private sector for the anti-money laundering bill to be approved was joined by the aircraft owners’ body yesterday but the AFC is maintaining it will not support the legislation unless the Public Procurement Commis-sion (PPC) is set up.

The Alliance For Change (AFC) said that even if the Anti-Money Laundering/ Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill is perfected and brought back to the house it will still withhold its support until the PPC is established.

“One is not enough,” the AFC said yesterday in release, maintaining that Guyanese are entitled to have both a PPC and rigid anti-money laundering legislation.

The release was prompted after Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh lamented the party’s decision to tie support for the Bill to the setting up of the PPC. According to the AFC, Singh describes it decision as reckless, but the party is arguing that it is Singh who is reckless for not seeing the wisdom in the party’s position.

The AFC continues to argue that the non-existence of a PPC, has allowed money laundering and its related activities to “reign supreme.” Money laundering, the party says, has led to the proliferation of substandard work being done at the regional and national levels, and allows the gap between the rich and poor in Guyana to grow.

The AFC also names money laundering as one of the reasons wages cannot be increased by a satisfactory percentage.

The party added that even as money launderers continue to operate with impunity, the Donald Ramotar administration has indicated that the setting up of the commission is not one of its priorities. This, the AFC says, is much different from the posture adopted by the government  during the ninth parliament when Ramotar, then a MP, told the National Assembly that the PPC was being stalled by the PNCR-1G’s insistence on unanimity.

Noting the possible repercussions of its position, the AFC said that it will hold to its position even it sees “some businessmen shedding a tear or two in explaining their transactions.”

But even as the AFC continues to leverage the setting up of the PPC for their support for the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill, stakeholders continue to voice their concerns over the potential implications of the Bill not being passed by the November deadline set by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF).

Yesterday the Aircraft Owners Association of Guyana (AOAG) joined with the Private Sector Commission, the Guyana Bankers Association, the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association and several other bodies which have publicly stated their worry, to condemn the non-passing and subsequent implementation of the Bill.

In a statement yesterday, the AOAG said that the failure of the National Assembly to pass the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill has put Guyanese at risk of being seriously penalized in conducting everyday business. Noting that the probable punitive consequences for not being found sufficiently compliant by the CFATF will affect every organization and individual in the country, they stressed the extent to which any implications can affect their own operations.

Because aviation in Guyana is entirely dependent on the importation of aircraft and aircraft spares, “any significant delay in the transfer of monies through our banking system would very quickly result in crippling the country’s aviation services, and in turn, domestic freight and commercial services to hinterland communities, mining, forestry, and other essential services,” the AOAG says.

In light of the seemingly impending implications of not being found compliant, the body is urging Members of Parliament to immediately enact “this essential legislation,” and to ensure that the administrative measures needed to enforce the provisions of the legislation are put in place as well.

After being found wanting in a May plenary, the CFATF set November as the deadline for Guyana to take sufficient steps towards combatting money laundering and the financing of terrorism. One of the most important steps is seen as the passing and implementation of the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill.

Though Guyana will be assessed in a plenary next month, CFATF required the country to submit documents in August ahead of the meeting. The Government was hoping to report that the Bill had been passed but both opposition parties are adamant that they will not support the passing of the Bill until their terms are met.  According to APNU, the Bill, as it is, is insufficient to effectively fight money laundering. The coalition was hoping to make changes to the Bill at the level of the Special Select Committee the Bill was sent to but these aspirations were dashed when the government members on the committee ended the committee’s work during a meeting the opposition members did not attend.

The Bill will be brought back to the National Assembly and it is uncertain how the debate of the Bill between government and opposition MPs will play out.