Opposition protecting drug lords, launderers – Rohee

General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Clement Rohee yesterday charged that opposition parties are withholding support for the anti-money laundering bill to protect drug lords and money launderers.

When asked to provide proof of the allegations he would only say that the evidence was in the opposition’s  resistance to furthering the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-ing the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) (Amendment) Bill as exemplified by their walk out of a meeting of the anti-money laundering select committee on Monday.

Speaking at a PPP press conference at Freedom House, he said “the opposition parties in the National Assembly are protecting the vested interests of a few whose operations, perhaps survival, will be affected if the bill is passed. These persons obviously are person engaged in illicit activities including trading and trafficking in drugs, arms, ammunition and who need to launder the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains”.

The opposition has argued that it wants changes made to the bill and also assurances that the machinery will work and result in the prosecution of launderers. The PPP/C government has been criticised for years over its failure to apprehend and charge drug traffickers and money launderers.

When pressed by Stabroek News and other media operatives to explain why current legislation could not lead to the prosecution of criminal elements, Rohee responded by saying “let’s move on.”

He stated repeatedly that the AML/CFT was the one crucial piece of legislation that could effectively lead to prosecutions. When asked to further explain his stance on current prosecution capabilities with the existing law  the minister got visibly agitated and shut down the questions on this particular issue.

In the press statement he read, Rohee said that the PPP/C was positive that the opposition had ties to criminal elements. This allegation has frequently been made by the PPP but no investigations or prosecutions have resulted.

Rohee also stated that “the Financial Action Task Force in its most recent public disclosure called Guyana the most delinquent of the delinquent countries…Guyana is therefore the leading contender to FATF/ICRG  (International Co-operation Review Group).”

He stated that there were potential tiers and that “maybe regionally we were blacklisted,” and now internationally may be the next step. The general secretary of the ruling party vehemently denied that he was “guessing his way through” answers when Stabroek News inquired why there seemed to be no consistency on the attributes of blacklisting and its repercussions.

Rohee noted that the AML/CFT legislation was a serious matter and that there were views in the public that the government was “joking” and that only when real signs of impact were felt would the general public accept the seriousness of the legislation.

However,  Rohee refused to say what the ruling party’s decision would be in relation to voting for opposition-approved legislation to gain the votes needed for the AML/CFT Bill. He said that it was a wait and see game and that Monday’s walkout from the select committee established to review the legislation didn’t give much signs of hope.

Opposition Leader David Granger has said that the opposition would not support the anti-laundering bill unless its legislation which was not assented to by President Donald Ramotar is given final approval. For this to happen, the bills would have to be sent back to the President with two-thirds support from the National Assembly which would entail the PPP/C voting with the opposition.

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