Gov’t scrapping anti-money laundering authority it insisted on

PPP/C MP Anil Nandlall last evening said that the imminent scrapping of the Anti-Money Laundering Authority is not only a major embarrassment for government but also confirms that the current parliamentary opposition was correct when it argued that the creation of the agency was unnecessary.

“I warned that such an authority to which the FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit) was made responsible, would undermine the independence of the FIU and this would render Guyana’s AML/CFT structure defective”. Nandlall told Stabroek News.

He was responding to a Demerara Waves report in which Attorney General Basil Williams informed that government will be returning to the National Assembly to repeal the Section of the AML/CFT Act that makes provision for the establishment of the Authority.

“That was overkill. Why would you put such a heavy superstructure over FIU? …They collect suspicious transactions, report threshold reports and they do the analysis,” Williams was quoted as saying in the Demerara Waves report.

This announcement comes after a lengthy process to identify ten persons to make up the Authority. The names were sent since August for Parliamentary approval.  Stabroek News was last evening unable to reach Chairman of the National Assembly’s Committee on Appointments and Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr George Norton for comment.

Nandlall told Stabroek News that after nearly four years in “self-denial, Attorney General, Mr. Basil Williams, has finally admitted that the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Authority was unnecessary. He now says that the Government will have to repeal the Section of the Act, which creates it. This must be a colossal embarrassment for the Government, having regard to historical evolution of this Authority”.

He reminded that the creation of this Authority was part of the amendments which APNU+AFC used their majority to impose upon the AML/CFT (Amendment) Bill 2014, which he (Nandlall) had tabled in the Tenth Parliament. “The PPP/C Government vehemently opposed this imposition. I pointed out then that it was unnecessary and not part of the Recommendations of Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF)”, he said.

According to Nandlall, a former AG himself, he had indicated that the process by which members of this Authority were to be appointed was also deeply flawed, since the members of this Authority were to be appointed by Members of Parliament, who are “politically exposed persons” and are liable to be investigated by the persons whom they are to appoint.

This argument, he said also applies to the FIU Director, Deputy Director and other senior functionaries of the FIU who are appointed by the National Assembly. This, he said was another imposition of the APNU+AFC in their amendments to the PPP/C Bills which were tabled.  “I predict that soon we will hear another announcement that this will also have to be repealed”, he said before pointing out that all of the opposition’s arguments on the issue of the creation of the Authority were ignored.

“Four years after, the Attorney General was forced to swallow the arrogance and now have to delete those amendments from the law. Of course he will never admit it, but I have no doubt that the AG was ordered to do so by those who are in charge of assessing Guyana’s AML/CFT structure”, he said.

Nandlall called  upon those “assessors” to also recognise that the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), the investigative arm specifically established by the PPP/C Administration to investigate suspicious transactions generated by the FIU, is “being misused, politicised and used to carry out politically directed investigations, rather than focus on organised crimes as it was established to do”.

Chartered accountant and attorney, Christopher Ram, businessman Gerry Gouveia,  Nicholas Deygoo, Wayne Eucaulton Fordyce, Hance Manohar,  UG lecturer Thomas Bissessar Singh, Frederick Collins, Mohamed Alli, Melissa Jessica DeSantos and attorney Sadie Amin were the proposed names submitted on a motion which was to be presented in parliament. However it never came up for discussion.

The AML/CFT Authority was meant to be a key part of the architecture of the anti-laundering act passed by the APNU+AFC government but it has been delayed for a long period as the parliamentary Committee on Appointments had to gather names after consultations with various groups.

The motion which was in the name of Dr. Norton’s stated that the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Guyana Association of Bankers (GAB), Institute of Chartered Accountants Guyana (ICAG), Transparency Institute of Guyana Inc. (TIGI), Guyana Bar Association, Insurance Institute of Guyana (IIG), the Guyana Association of Women Lawyers (GAWL) and the Guyana Securities Council (GSC) were consulted on the matter.

Deygoo and Gouveia were nominated by the PSC, Fordyce by the GAB, Manohar by the ICAG, Singh and Collins by TIGI, Ram and Alli by the Bar Association, De Santos by the IIG and Amin by the GAWL.

The Authority’s specific responsibilities according to the Act were to 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 Finance 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.

Dr. Norton said that the compilation of the list took some time since organizations were slow in submitting nominees. He had said that once a nominee was identified the name was sent to the police for due diligence to be done. He had said too that one of the difficulties faced was the ability to find suitable nominees, that is, persons who are not politically-exposed.

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