PPP calls for amendments to Anti-money Laundering Act

Saying that Guyana has failed to meet the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and remains a non-compliant jurisdiction, the opposition PPP/C is calling for further amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering/ Countering the Financing of Terrorism (Amendment) Act.

Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira told reporters yesterday that given the recommendations that came out of the October Plenary held in Paris, it was clear that more work is necessary at the legislative level to bring Guyana into compliance. “The bill has to be returned to the House with additional amendments or corrections or as guided by the CFATF (Caribbean Financial Action Task Force), the regional body that has been assisting Guyana on behalf of FATF and the FATF itself,” she said at a press briefing at Freedom House.

Teixeira did not say whether the opposition would be tabling any amendments and only said that the party would need to be “clear on the specifics,” prior to moving forward. She said that the “devil was in the details.”

Gail Teixeira
Gail Teixeira

In its most recent report issued last week, the FATF did not say that Guyana remains a non-cooperative jurisdiction and listed it among countries engaged in an ongoing process. The only country identified as not making sufficient progress was Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

FATF identified Guyana as a jurisdiction which has strategic AML/CFT deficiencies but which has developed an action plan with the FATF. According to its statement following the plenary, Guyana has provided a written high-level political commitment to address the identified deficiencies and it welcomes these commitments.

“Since June 2015, Guyana has taken steps toward improving its AML/CFT regime, including by enacting the AML/CFT Amendment Act 2015,” the statement said.

However, it said FATF has determined that certain strategic deficiencies remain. The body said Guyana should continue to implement its action plan, including by: ensuring and implementing an adequate legal framework for identifying, tracing and freezing terrorist assets; ensuring a fully operational and effectively functioning financial intelligence unit; establishing effective measures for customer due diligence and enhancing financial transparency; and implementing an adequate supervisory framework.

Yesterday, Teixeira said that the PPP is advocating that government re-establish a national advisory committee, which under the previous administration, was headed by Dr Roger Luncheon, the then Head of the Presidential Secretariat. She said that this body was able to work with all necessary agencies that would be affected by the AML/CFT Act in a non-legislative manner to coordinate and synchronise strategies.

The PPP/C Chief Whip asserted that since the AML/CFT legislation was passed in June, the government has done very little to engage in the non-legislative FATF requirements.

The committee worked with the Finance Minister, the Attorney General and representatives from the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) , the Guyana Revenue Authority, the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit, and the Special Organized Crime Unit, among others, to streamline procedures.

While in opposition, the APNU+AFC coalition had pressed for representation on the committee. Teixeira said now “it would do no harm if the government were to involve members of the opposition particularly those of us who were familiar with this long process we gone through to sit down and say ‘hey there are some areas we have to now come back into parliament it looks like with some … new amendments, you know this is what we have to do, we are looking for your cooperation or support for this.’ I think that these are issues that are not difficult to address but they got to lead,” she said.

The opposition Chief Whip stated that simultaneously, the National Assembly could make immediate strides to appoint the members of the AML/CFT Authority to pave the way for a functioning FIU.

Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman had noted prior to the PPP/C’s appearance in the National Assembly that government would not proceed without cooperation from the opposition. However, since the PPP began attending sittings of the National Assembly, there have been no moves to proceed.

Teixeira raised the opposition’s concern with the possible appointment of Politically Exposed Persons (PEP), which under the law is possible.

In June, prior to the passing of the Act, former Attorney General and PPP Executive Anil Nandlall had stated that with the proposed amendments to the PPP/C’s 2013 version, the bill was prone to “contamination” from PEPs.

“What they have done in this bill is to take politically exposed persons who are MPs and make them the appointing authority for the FIU. This (FATF) document basically tells you to insulate them from the investigative and monitoring arm of AML/CFT infrastructure and bodies that are there to investigate,” he had said.

Meantime, Teixeira said that given the outcome of the FATF meeting, “while the PPP can feel some vindication for the positions they took in June 14, 2015 at a press conference pointing out the inadequacies of the amendment bill and why Guyana will still not be compliant, we are in the PPP pained by the fact that Guyana remains non-compliant in a period of economic downturn.”

Teixeira called out members of the Private Sector, the Bar Association and others who were vocal in the past over the need for the then PPP administration and APNU and AFC to work together to produce a compliant bill.

Attorney General Basil Williams held a press conference just an hour after Teixeira’s where he spoke extensively on the FATF’s report.