A Financial Action Task Force (FATF) team is here on a two-day visit to assess Guyana’s implementation of recommendations, a crucial step in a years-long battle by the country to avoid international sanctions over its anti-money laundering framework.
The FATF team yesterday met with Attorney General (AG) Basil Williams and his AML/CFT compliance group.
Following the meeting which was held at the AG Chambers, Williams said that Guyana has satisfied all of the recommendations outlined in the FATF action plan and that the visit by the on-site team is the next stage of the process.
America’s Regional Review Group (ARRG) Assessor, Gonzalo Gonzalez de Lara; Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) Financial Advisor, Roger Hernandez and FATF’s Senior Policy Analyst, Kevin Vandergrift are the members of the delegation who met with Williams.
Williams told reporters that an on-site visit is necessary so that the team “could come and see whether we have introduced the FATF standards and that we are implementing the recommendations and that there is political commitment to sustain that”.
Informing that the Executive Director of CFATF was missing from the FATF team but is expected to arrive in Guyana shortly, he said that the team will inspect the various supervisory agencies, reporting agencies and other bodies such as cambios, money transfer agencies, banks, co-ops and pawn brokers involved in the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of (AML/CFT) setup.
“The whole gamut has been captured by the action plan in relation to these entities”, he said.
He said that within a year of taking office government has satisfied all the recommendations in the action plan and those in the follow up report under CFATF.
“Remember, we developed a system where we were referred by CFATF to FATF, so we couldn’t exit CFATF before exiting FATF and that is why if we exit FATF then …we would exit CFATF. We are confident because we have been able to satisfy them (the recommendations)”, he said.
The AG said that the officials met with him and his compliance team comprising the acting head of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) Alicia Williams and the draftspersons in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Charles Fung-a-Fat, the Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel and Joann Bond Senior Parliamentary Counsel.
According to Williams, these draftspersons have earned the kudos of the ARRG and the ICRG.
The fact that there is no substantive head of the FIU in place will not hinder the FATF process.
The AG said that at the last FATF meeting in South Korea, one of the members went through to the next round with an acting Director of the FIU.
Asked about the opposition’s intention to raise their concerns with the visiting team and a possible meeting between them, Williams questioned why a meeting should take place when the opposition is “not part of the action plan”.
He said that the opposition is not part of the visit and he pointed out that the team has been ordered to come to see whether the FATF standards have been introduced in the relevant agencies and that they are being implemented.
“As you would know in the last administration, there was no political will. Nothing was ever done from 2000 up to the time that we took office no one was ever charged…investigated…taken to court. Since we have come into office people have been charged, people have been taken to court on many occasions…They have never done a thing under that regime so I don’t know what concerns they could have”, he said.
The members of the FATF team later in the day met with the Minister of Finance, the FIU, the AML/CFT Supervisory Authority, the Friendly and Co-op Societies, the Public Service Co-operative Credit Union, the Special Organised Crime Unit and the Director of Public Prosecutions. Today they are scheduled to meet with President David Granger, representatives from the Confidential Cambio, Governor Dr. Gobind Ganga and other Bank of Guyana officials, the Guyana Securities Council, Demerara Mutual Life Insurance Company, Guyana Americas Merchant Bank Inc., Republic Bank (Guyana) Ltd and Western Union.
Deputy CFATF chair
Meanwhile, Williams said that him being appointed the CFATF Deputy Chair is evidence that Guyana’s work in AML/CFT has been noted and that it is felt that Guyana can make a valuable contribution.
“They probably feel that Guyana could make a contribution. They are probably impressed with the efforts that we have made since taking office. They are impressed by the fact that the whole process, the commitment was led off by the President himself…when he wrote very early in our tenure to the President of FATF indicating Guyana’s intention of political commitment to observing the FATF standards and recommendations”, he said.
The CFATF Secretariat, in making the announcement of Williams’ appointment said on its website that it is pleased to advise that the Council of Ministers at its meeting on Thursday 8th September 2016, considered and approved the application by Guyana for the post for the period November 2016 to November 2017. Guyana’s candidature was supported by Curacao and Saint Maarten and endorsed by the Council of Ministers, the Secretariat said.
“The CFATF owes a debt of gratitude to the Government and people of Guyana and in particular the Honourable Basil Williams for so readily agreeing to fill the lacuna that arose as a consequence of the Dominican Republic who was due to assume the position of Deputy Chair, confirming by letter on September 1st 2016 that it was withdrawing its membership in the CFATF and advising that it had joined the Financial Action Task Force of Latin America (GAFILAT)”, the Secretariat said.