AG: Undoing financial blacklisting could take years, cost millions

-warns of int’l policing of financial sector

Guyana has been advised of a stringent review process costing millions of dollars with an international body policing the local financial sector likely to set up shop here as a result of the country’s failure to pass anti-money laundering legislation, according to Attorney-General Anil Nandlall.

“In terms of the way forward, I am not clear on how we proceed,” Nandlall told a PPP symposium on the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Bill at Red House on Monday. He said that he suspects that the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will commence a protracted review by its’ International Co-operation Review Group (ICRG). The ICRG analyses high-risk jurisdictions and recommends specific action to address the ML/FT risks emanating from them. The Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) last urged countries in the region to step up countermeasures to protect themselves from financial risks emanating from Guyana as a result of the country’s failure to rectify deficiencies in its anti-money laundering legislation. The regional body also referred Guyana to the FATF. CFATF said Guyana has been listed among jurisdictions with AML/CFT deficiencies that have not made sufficient progress in addressing the deficiencies or have not complied with the Action Plan developed with the CFATF to address these deficiencies. Pursuant to these findings, CFATF called on its member countries to “implement further counter-measures to protect their financial systems from the ongoing money laundering and terrorist financing risks emanating from Guyana.”

Nandlall said that government has been unofficially told to assemble a team of technical personnel with whom the international body will interact on a regular basis. He said that this team will cost millions of dollars and these officials will have to travel to meet the Group wherever it holds its meetings. He said that the body will also likely set up shop here to “essentially police the entire financial sector” of the country. The Attorney-General said that it could take between five to seven years to exit the process and all the work done for the CFATF will have to be redone and up to four pieces of legislation will have to be passed.

He noted that the opposition continue to tie conditionalities to the passage of AML/CFT Bill and reiterated that there would be no compromise on the part of government as the Bills that APNU wants the President to assent to as a condition of their support are not within the law. “You can’t have a compromise to breach the law,” the Attorney-General said. “You can’t have political compromise that is unlawful,” he added, emphasising that the question of compromise in relation to those Bill is not an available option in his opinion. What can be done, he said, is that the components of the bills that are not within the law can be removed and the bills could then be sent back to the National Assembly.

Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh said that the opposition could have passed amendments to the principal legislation at any time since they have the parliamentary majority, but they are not willing to do so. PPP General-Secretary Clement Rohee said that many persons have been urging elections to resolve the situation. “Are they right? Are the wrong? Who is to judge?” he said. “Many people feel rightly or wrongly so….that the way out of this is elections,” he said.

Since Guyana’s referral to the FATF, neither government nor the opposition parties have signaled a shift towards compromise for the passage of the bill. FATF is slated to hold its next Plenary in Paris, France from June 23 to June 27.

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