For a number of years, the PPP/C showed no interest in strengthening anti-money laundering law

Dear Editor,

After reading Sir Ronald Sanders’ sobering column, “In Guyana: political negotiations an opportunity for real democracy,” (KN, March 9, 2014), I think Guyanese need to know the history and the truth about the delay in passing the amended version of the 2009 Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Law, and stop believing the lying PPP regime that the opposition is holding up the amended law’s passage.

The opposition merely wants the amended law to facilitate mechanisms and systems outside the control of the PPP regime that will make the law work, because evidence abounds that the regime refuses to make it work. And thanks to Stabroek News, we have a chronological outline showing the history of deliberate delays associated with the PPP. On May 11, 2008, Stabroek News reported President Bharrat Jagdeo as saying ‘money-laundering legislation – sent to a Select Committee since June 2007 – would be passed in the next two months’, despite the fact that the committee had done nothing in the past year since the bill was sent there for deliberation.

On June 23, 2008, SN reported that the ‘Special Select Committee examining the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Finance of Terrorism Bill 2007 has invited oral and written submissions from members of the public, as its work gets underway after a year-long lapse’.

On December 14, 2008, SN reported ‘the special parliamentary committee reviewing the proposed anti-money laundering law has begun its deliberations on the substantive provisions of the long-awaited legislation’.

On April 30, 2009, the National Assembly passed the Anti-Money Laundering Bill after it spent two years in a Special Select Committee, (“Bill to confiscate money launderers’ assets finally passed,” SN, May 2, 2009). Almost four months later, on August 14, August 19, 2009, President Bharrat Jagdeo assented to the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Terrorism Act (“New anti-money laundering law assented to,” SN, August 19, 2009). So it took the Jagdeo regime, with its parliamentary majority, from June 2007 to August 2009 to prepare and pass this very important bill into law, prompting many observers to wonder aloud if the regime really wanted the law at all.

On July 4, 2011, SN reported that ‘more than two years after the new Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Terrorism law was enacted, it is still not clear what work the lead agency under the Act—the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU)—has been doing as there has been no known case brought by it against anyone during that period’. ‘Even President Bharrat Jagdeo appeared upset last year (2010) about the fact that there have been no court proceedings brought by the unit and he had publicly expressed his displeasure.

While there has been one money laundering conviction, arising out of a case in the UK and which had the assistance of Scotland Yard, that court action was initiated by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the conviction has since been overturned by the High Court’.

The FATF (the inter-governmental body developing and promoting policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing) then issued a statement that ‘the methodology to prioritise jurisdictions in the pool for ICRG review was adopted by the FATF in October 2010’, and although ‘Guyana was ahead of Haiti, Aruba, Belize, Suriname, Turks and Caicos Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Grenada and Dominica with scores between seven and three, Guyana was also at the top of the list of the jurisdictions in the ICRG-pool in the Africa/ Middle East and Asia/ Pacific regions’(Guyana tops list for possible further FATF sanctions, Guyana Chronicle, February 1, 2014).

So, although the Jagdeo regime knew of this October 2010 finding that the 2009 AML law had certain deficiencies that needed correcting, it did not make the amendments during the ensuing 12 months when Parliament was dissolved in September 2011 in preparation for the November 2011 elections.

Upon careful review of the foregoing chronology of events pertinent to the preparation and passage of the 2009 AML law, therefore, we can easily conclude that the PPP has no genuine interest in or desire for this law, so all the kicking, screaming and scratching about the opposition delaying passage of the amended bill are smokescreens to fool the gullible.

Compounding matters was President Jagdeo’s reported lamentation in 2011 about the FIUs failure to make money laundering busts, because the CFATF also lamented the government’s failure to ensure the FIU made busts, even as there is a sea of evidence in Guyana of money laundering. It is obvious the PPP has zero interest in making this law work.

The FIU is actually supposed to be adequately staffed with personnel properly trained in anti-money laundering tactics, but as of January 2011, there were only a director and an assistant. And while the PPP regime announced last year that the FIU will rely on police officers or advertise for legal advisers and financial analysts, no one knows what the status of the hiring process is.

Yours faithfully,

Emile Mervin

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