Parliament’s Committee on Appointments had its first meeting on Wednesday but discussion of the establishment of the required Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Authority was not on the agenda.
“AML/CFT is not on the agenda at all,” Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira told members of the media.
At a PPP press conference dealing with parliamentary issues, Teixeira said of government Members of Parliament, “Maybe they just clued out. They are just not in line with what they are supposed to be doing.”
After a three-year political battle over compliance with international requirements for the anti-money laundering legislation, government was able to pass the amended bill in the 11th Parliament on June 26. President David Granger assented to the bill on July 10, bringing it into law.
Since then there has been very little movement in relation to establishing the authority, which is to be named by the National Assembly to appoint members of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall said Guyana was still seen as defective by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and government’s amendments to the AML/CFT legislation were to blame.
He said that since Attorney General Basil Williams returned from the FATF Plenary in Paris in October, there has been no move to establish the authority because the recommendations were flawed to begin with. He claimed that when he demitted office the proposed legislation without the then opposition amendments was FATF-compliant. Once the government changed, “They changed the structure of the FIU. They enlarged it and they put a body over it, an authority over it and then they changed the appointment process; they made the appointment process a political one,” he stated.
Nandlall responded at length when asked by the Stabroek News what the opposition’s take was on the length of time the government has taken to begin the process of establishing the authority.
“Why are we not seeing the implementation? … Because those aspects of the bill were found to be offensive, so they cannot be implemented,” he said. “The difficulty the government now finds [itself] in is how to explain away this to the public, having taken such strident positions on this matter; having demanded emphatically that they preferred to go to an election rather than compromise their position in terms of the appointment process for the FIU and in terms of the creation of this Authority which they contaminate with a whole host of politically exposed persons having taken those positions. So… it’s going to be extremely difficult for them to resign from those positions and accept publicly that they made mistakes. I think that is the stage where we are at now.”
Nandlall had furiously opposed the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill, arguing that the authority established under the legislation would comprise politically exposed persons (PEPs), making it prone to contamination.
He noted that the amendments that were implemented always posed concerns for the PPP and as such were not supported. “Those were our concerns. Notwithstanding that Mr Williams inserted [the amendments]… Now, if those were the only changes that were made and the bill was found not to be acceptable then it tells me that is the reason or those are the reasons why it was not found acceptable. Of course we will not get that admission from Mr Williams, but it is a very, very, sensible eminently sensible inference to draw,” Nandlall said.
Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman had told reporters that the authority will not be voted on in the absence of the PPP/C in the National Assembly.
He said it would be undemocratic to not seek the opinions of the opposition. “Parliament has no opposition up to now. We wouldn’t want to proceed on many of these things without involvement of the opposition,” he stated.
The opposition has been in attendance for sittings of the House since August 17th.
Trotman had stated that for now the FIU was operating as it has prior to the AML/CFT Act being signed into law, although he added that he did not expect this to continue for long.
Under the Act, the authority will comprise 10 persons that have to be given approval by the National Assembly. In turn, the authority will appoint the Director and Deputy Director of the FIU along with the lawyer and accountant of the unit.
In addition, the Commissioner of Police, the Head of the Serious Organised Crime Unit, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Commissioner-General of the Guyana Revenue Authority, the Solicitor-General, the Head of the Customs Anti-Narcotic Unit (CANU) and the Chairman of the Government Board of the Deeds and Commercial Registry Authority will be ex-officio members of the Authority.