Businesses to air complaints on stalled anti-laundering bill fallout

– when PSC hosts forum next week

Private Sector Commission (PSC) Chairman Ron Webster says fallout from the non-passage of the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill is affecting businesses in Guyana, and a conference is set for April 15 for the affected to ventilate their experiences.

He declined to name the businesses which have complained.

Since the bill was taken to the House last April, government Members of Parliament (MPs) urged its speedy passage and implementation, lest Guyana be saddled with business-crippling backlash. Finance Minister Ashni Singh and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall were vocal on the negative implications that would follow the opposition’s lack of support for the passage of the Anti-Money Laundering Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill.

Government kicked its warnings into overdrive after Guyana missed a deadline last November, by which time the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) required the bill’s implementation.

Despite the warnings, and a call by CFATF for its members to consider measures against Guyana, there have been very little to no tangible reports of fallout.

In an interview with this newspaper last week, however, Webster said that several businesses have complained to the PSC that they are sustaining negative effects due to the non-passage of the bill. These, he specified, included lengthier time periods to process outgoing transfers for imports and receipt of foreign proceeds for exports.

He also stated that money transfer entities had been complaining about the time it now takes to complete transactions. While he agreed to share the plight of companies which have complained to the PSC, Webster declined to identify them.

The due diligence exercises associated with these transactions, he also said, had been beefed up as companies are seeking to ensure that transactions are legal. The documentation that is required for these transactions have also increased, he related. But, these ripples may precede something much more menacing, he warned.

Webster said that the fallout seen thus far has little teeth, and that the effects will really start to bite in a few months (three to four) if the provisions of the bill are not implemented by then. “That is when the axe will drop,” he said.

Meanwhile, outgoing president of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Clinton Urling, told Stabroek News, “we have not heard anything from anyone,” when asked if any complaints have been made to the Chamber.

He also said that the chamber has not carried out a survey to ascertain the implications, if any, facing Guyanese businesses. He said the GCCI will likely carry out such a survey towards the end of the year if the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) applies stricter sanctions. If this happens, he said, the data required for a survey will be available.

In the meantime, the PSC is organizing an event to allow businesses which have been affected by the bill’s non-passage to give feedback on their individual experiences. Webster said that conference will be held on April 15, and that it will be open to members of the PSC, as well as those not under the body.

The AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill contains provisions required by CFATFT to bring Guyana’s legislation in these areas up to scratch. The body initially gave Guyana until May of last year to get the bill passed. The deadline was missed, along with deadlines in August and November.

After Guyana was found non-compliant with the requirements of CFATF, the body called on its members to consider actions to insulate themselves from any money laundering or financing of terrorism that may be emanating from the country. CFATF nevertheless, extended the deadline to May 2014. In February, FATF had its plenary, and government warned that the body could choose to review Guyana and apply sanctions if the bill was still not passed.

The plenary passed without further action being taken against the country. Now, the May deadline is a month away, and the select committee charged with considering the bill has not completed its work.

In fact, the committee does not have a timetable, and its members are unsure of when their next meeting is to take place. On Wednesday last, Stabroek News spoke to several committee members, including its chairperson Gail Teixeira.

Teixeira explained that the Chief Parliamentary Council (CPC), Cecil Dhurjon, is currently working on changes that were made to A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) proposed amendments. The changes were necessitated after discussions held during the last meeting two weeks ago. Stabroek News understands that the next meeting will take place when Dhurjon indicates to the committee that he has finished his work.

When asked about Dhurjon’s progress, Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General Anil Nandlall was unable to say. Dhurjon is an officer of the AG’s Chambers.

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