Several financial analysts will by September begin a US-funded training programme in the use of intelligence data management software, which will improve Guyana’s efforts in detecting money laundering and terrorist financing.
The US$150,000 (approximately $30 million) funding will cover the cost of training as well as support services from IBM Corporation.
The initiative was made possible by the US government after the Ministry of Finance, as agreed, purchased the iBase software which is used by Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) worldwide.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan told the media yesterday that the government’s acquisition of this globally recognized software will allow the FIU to more easily map and import data and information from both structured and unstructured sources into the centralized repository.
He said it will also help to hasten the pace at which data is analyzed, connections are found and actionable results are generated. At the same time, he said, the software will facilitate comprehensive searches for intelligence and records, run complex queries on data and offer security rich data access capabilities that will improve data security, integrity and access.
According to Jordan, in recognition of the critical role the FIU will play in the fight against money laundering and the value of this software to support its work, the US government had offered to cover the cost of the initial training and support services required from IBM Corporation. This timely assistance, he said, was not only an indication of Guyana’s inability to meet such costs but it also underscores the value of meaningful partnerships in the collective fight to rid countries of contaminated activities and transactions. “Already Guyana is suffering the effects of de-risking by several US based banks. We are therefore comforted by gestures of this kind,” he said.
Jordan said the scale of money laundering and terrorist financing has risen globally resulting in a potential macro-economic and security risk where these illicit activities are prevalent. He said the recently concluded money laundering and terrorist financing national risk assessment identified a number of core sectors that pose severe money laundering and terrorist financing risk to the country. He said the national risk-based action plan which emanated from the findings of the assessment will guide policymakers in their attempt to implement combatting measures commensurate with the level of risk identified.
Accordingly, he said, there is no doubt that the employment of advance technology has aided in the detection of money laundering activities thus allowing procedural and countervailing measures to be implemented.
He pointed out that money launderers are becoming more sophisticated which places demands on the authorities to deploy new and appropriate techniques to enhance the country’s ability to detect and prevent these illicit activities.
Government, he said, is also aware of the need for improved data collection and management from an array of pertinent sources as well as better and incisive data analysis to effectively monitor and identify red flags and suspicious transactions that warrant deeper investigation.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Guyana Perry Holloway said the US government, through the Department of State’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs will be supporting Guyana’s FIU with training and support services for the iBase software. The training and support will be provided by IBM Corporation.
According to IBM’s website, the software is an intuitive intelligence data management application that “enables collaborative teams of analysts to capture, control and analyze multisource data in security-rich workgroup environments”. The software, it was explained, also addresses the analyst’s daily challenge of “discovering and uncovering networks, patterns and trends in today’s increasing volumes of complex structured and unstructured data.” It also provides a multiuser data sharing environment that combines “rich analysis and visualization capabilities with dissemination tools,” the website states.
“We agreed that once it is purchased we would provide the training and technical assistance,” Holloway said during the simple ceremony held at the ministry, before giving assurances that it will help in the tackling of money laundering and other serious international crimes.
He said that following the training it is left for the FIU to begin using the most up-to-date technology for detecting illegal financial activities, putting them on par with other financial analysts and FIUs all across the world. This tool, he said, “will significantly enhance the capabilities of the FIU in Guyana in its mandate and mission of combatting money laundering and terrorist financing and protecting the local financial sector from being infiltrated by the proceeds of crime.” He said he has seen the software in action in other countries and it is “really powerful”.
FIU Director Matthew Langevine pointed out that the FIU has a very wide mandate which includes information from a range of entities including banks and non-bank financial institutions cambios, money transfer agencies, insurance companies, licensed gold dealers, security companies, betting shops, pawnbrokers, used car dealers, house agents, casinos, lotteries, cooperatives, credit unions, friendly societies, non-profit organisations among others. He said that this extensive list demonstrates the quantum of data, the FIU would receive. “Organizing and getting value out of that information received is difficult given the limited human resources available,” he said adding that intelligence reports take a long time to prepare to a certain standard.
“Most FIUs across the world use advanced software programmes which are specially developed to perform data analysis,” he said.
He informed that it was during a courtesy call meeting a few months ago that he and US Deputy Chief of Mission Terry Steers-Gonzalez discussed the matter. He said the official indicated his country’s willingness to assist, but said it had to be discussed with the ambassador. A few days later, he was informed that the green light had been given.
Responding subsequently to questions from the media, Langevine said that the FIU’s database consists of data that was accumulated over many years and all of that will be available to be analysed by the software. He said the mandate of the FIU is to receive, analyse and disseminate information and once the analysis is done and there is belief that there is enough information to demonstrate money laundering or terrorist financing actives, the intelligence report is sent to law enforcement for investigation and further action.
Asked what prompted Guyana to go after this technology, he said that this was standard equipment in the average FIU arena worldwide. “Guyana is basically just now getting to that stage,” he said. “We are a relatively new Financial Intelligence Unit…and this is a big part of us getting on par with the FIUs in the rest of the region.”
He would not say that there had been lapses in FIU because of the absence of this software, stating instead. “I think we should see a lot more work being done a lot faster.”
He said human and technology resources have been the biggest challenge for the unit. He pointed out though that this situation over the past few years has been slowly improving.
The training programme is expected to last for three months.