Nominees for anti-money laundering authority to be sent for parliamentary approval

The critical Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Authority is closer to becoming a reality as the police have completed their due diligence on the 10 persons nominated to serve on it, Chairman of the National Assembly’s Committee on Appointments Dr. George Norton says.

The names are to be sent to the National Assembly for approval.

Norton, who is also the Minister of Social Cohesion, told Sunday Stabroek recently that “the money laundering authority is in a draft form and is almost ready for Parliament.” He did not say when the names will be sent for approval. He was also unable to recall the identities of the ten nominees.

The next sitting of the National Assembly is on Thursday and given the importance of the Authority, it could be addressed then.

Several weeks ago, Norton had informed this newspaper that the establishment of the Authority was delayed because various organisations were taking a lengthy time to submit the names of nominees.

Dr. George Norton

Under the AML/CFT Act, the authority will comprise 10 persons who have to be given approval by the National Assembly. In turn, the authority will appoint the Director and Deputy Director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) along with the lawyer and accountant of the unit.

In the absence of the authority, the National Assembly has already approved the appointment of the Director and the Deputy Director. According to Norton, the accountant and the lawyer, who are also vital to the FIU, have been identified but are still to face final interviews.

He had informed that the Committee wrote to various organisations asking for nominees but this proved difficult. He said that some organisations did respond and in one case the nominee died and the Committee had to request a replacement.

According to Norton, the Private Sector Commission, the Guyana Association of Bankers (GAB), the Transparency Institute of Guyana and the Guyana Bar Association each submitted two nominees, while the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Guyana (ICAG) and the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers each submitted one nominee.

In the case of the ICAG nominee, he said, there was no disclosure as to whether that nominee was politically exposed, while one of the GBA’s nominees was yet to decide whether he was.

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall has publicly said that the failure in setting up the authority is inexcusable.

The Authority’s specific responsibilities include ensuring that the work of the FIU is conducted in an efficient, fair and cost effective manner, in accordance with policy guidelines determined by the Assembly and the Minister; ensuring, in the national interest, the performance of the FIU accords with international obligations and commitments; monitoring and reviewing compliance with all relevant legislation, policies and measures; ascertaining the need for any legislation or amendments to existing legislation; causing to be investigated any complaint, irregularity or mismanagement concerning the FIU; and proposing remedial action and assisting in the dissemination of information on the work of the FIU, and enlightening the public of the need for cooperation with the FIU.

$900M bank fraud
Meanwhile, in keeping with its legal responsibility, it is expected that the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (GBTI) would have informed the FIU about the multi-million dollar fraud at its Bartica branch.

Last week, gold dealer Saddiqi Rafeek Mohamad Rasul, 34, of Prashad Nagar was slapped with six charges alleging that he defrauded GBTI of a total of $956 million.

It is being alleged that between March 21 and March 22, at Bartica, with intent to defraud, Rasul, who owns SSS Minerals Trading, obtained the sums of $96 million, $290 million, $89 million, $45 million, $298 million and $138 million from the bank by pretending that he had cash in a Citizens Bank account to honour corresponding Citizens Bank cheques.

He was released on $3 million bail.

The bank manager has since surrendered herself to police, while six other persons are being sought in connection with the alleged fraud.

According to information reaching this newspaper, staff of the bank issued payments to Rasul without the cheques, which came from another bank, being cleared.

It is alleged that the bank manager was involved in allowing Rasul to withdraw the money. The cheques later bounced owing to insufficient funds and the police were called in.

The FIU, according to its website, is an agency responsible for the requesting, receiving, analysing and disseminating suspicious transaction reports and other information relating to money laundering, terrorist financing or proceeds of crime.

Among some of its key responsibilities is the compilation of reports for competent law enforcement authorities if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that transactions involve money laundering or are proceeds of crime or terrorist financing.

Banks, under the AML/CFT legislation, are required to submit Suspicious Activities Reports to the FIU.

According to the FIU website, “a reporting entity must pay special attention to all complex, unusual or large business transactions, whether completed or not, and to all unusual patterns of transactions and to insignificant but periodic transactions, which have no apparent economic or lawful purpose.”

It said that upon reasonable suspicion that a transaction may constitute or relate to money laundering, proceeds of crime or terrorist financing, a reporting entity must “promptly report the suspicious transaction to the Financial Intelligence Unit.”

The website states that where the reporting entity is a money transfer agency, it must report any money transfer over $200,000 and in instances where the reporting agency is a cambio, any purchase of over $400,000, and any sale over $1,000,000 and any cash transaction over $2,000,000.

Sunday Stabroek has made several attempts to interview FIU Director Matthew Langevine but was told that because of a huge workload he is unavailable until after the Easter holidays. No information about the work of the unit has been made public.

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