Guyana remains major money laundering country

-US State Dep’t report

Guyana is among several Caribbean countries that have once again been listed as “Major Money Laundering” jurisdictions for 2017, according to the recently released United States State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR).

However, also among the almost 100 countries that are listed in this category are the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Italy.

Apart from Guyana, other Caribbean countries listed under the category are: Antigua and Barbuda; the Bahamas; Barbados; the British Virgin Islands; Dominica, the Dominican Republic; Haiti Jamaica; Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Suriname; and Trinidad and Tobago.

The March, 2018 report, which focuses on two areas–Drug and Chemical Control (Volume 1) and Money Laundering and Financial Crimes (Volume 11) –said narcotics trafficking and government corruption are the primary sources of laundered funds in Guyana. It added that other illicit activities, such as human trafficking, illicit gold mining, contraband smuggling, and tax evasion are also sources.

“Common money laundering typologies include: fake agreements of sale for precious minerals used to support large cash deposits at financial institutions; cross-border transport of volumes of precious metals small enough to avoid scrutiny by relevant officials and the payment of the relevant taxes and duties; and using middle-aged and elderly couriers for cross-border transport of large sums of U.S. dollars,” the report further said.

‘Great progress’

It is the second consecutive year that Guyana has been listed in as a “Major Money Laundering” country. In wake of the findings last year, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan had suggested that the Caribbean region would have to take collective action to deal with whatever fallout may come from the “bold headlines” generated by the report.

He had said that Guyana was already “under the gun” as it related to money laundering, which had contributed to the de-risking by international banks that had taken place over the last five years.

“This now adds more to our misery. To lump all the countries which might be at various stages of the implementation of the money laundering legislation, to lump 14 countries which don’t appear on either [Financial Action Task Force] or [Caribbean Financial Action Task Force] list of countries in default, it is a sad blow to the Caribbean and it is a denial of recognition of the efforts made by all of these countries…to making our countries safer, to rid our countries of bad money,” he had also said.

According to the report, while Guyana has made great progress on the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) front, it should continue to provide training to increase awareness and understanding of AML laws within the judiciary and agencies with investigative authority for financial crimes. It also stated that suspicious activity reporting, wire transfer, and customer due diligence regulations should be strengthened and additional resources given to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU).

Reporting and investigating entities should improve their inter-agency coordination in the future, the report also suggested.

It also noted that the largely unregulated currency exchange houses used to transfer funds to and from the diaspora pose a risk to the country’s AML regime.

‘Transit country’

Meanwhile, the report also once again listed Guyana as a transit country for South American cocaine destined for Europe, the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean.

It said cocaine is concealed in legitimate commodities and smuggled via commercial maritime vessels, air transport, human couriers, or postal services.

Additionally, it pointed out that traffickers are attracted to this country’s remote airstrips, porous borders, and weak security infrastructure.

The report also pointed out that drug-related corruption is evident in the country’s criminal justice system and other sectors. And while as a matter of policy the government does not encourage or facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotics, the report said the lack of resources, weak law enforcement institutions, an ineffective judicial system, and inadequate compensation for civil service employees and public safety officials facilitate corruption throughout all sectors.

However, it was noted that the government has demonstrated a strong political will to combat the trafficking of narcotics throughout Guyana.

The report also stated that the United States enjoys strong cooperation with Guyana in advancing mutual interests against the threat of international drug trafficking and looks forward to tangible progress on investigations, prosecutions, extraditions, security capacity enhancement, the engagement of at-risk communities, and enforcement of laws against money-laundering and financial crimes. While this is being done, however, it added that limited resources continue to be a hindrance.

According to the US State Department website, the INCSR is an annual report by the Department of State to Congress prepared in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act. It describes the efforts of key countries to attack all aspects of the international drug trade in for the calendar year under review.

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