Proposed bill to abolish anti-money laundering authority sent to Parliament’s appointments committee

A draft bill to repeal the section of the law which provides for the establishment of the Anti-Money Laundering Authority has been sent to the Parliamentary Appoint-ments Committee for comments, following which it will engage the attention of stakeholders, Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General Basil Williams SC has said.

The authority had been insisted upon by APNU and the AFC when they were in the opposition and was introduced as a law by them when their coalition acceded to government in 2015.

After a lengthy process, the proposed nominees for the Authority were identified and referred to the National Assembly for approval. However, during a sitting on March 15th, government finally acknowledged that the regional anti-money laundering watchdog, the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF), has said that a key part of the anti-money laundering framework is unacceptable and asked that the motion to approve the members be deferred.

Speaking on Friday during a break at a seminar organised by his ministry and the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) National Coordinating Committee on Guyana’s preparations for the upcoming FATF fourth round mutual evaluation, Williams informed that the relevant amendment to the AML/CFT Act has already been drafted.

The ministry felt that it was necessary for the draft to first engage the parliamentary committee before being sending it to stakeholders.

“The draft legislation has to be sent to stakeholders, including the opposition, the private sector but it hasn’t yet reach that stage. It is drafted but we have to fine tune it and send out to the stakeholders,” he said when question on the issue by this newspaper.

He expressed confidence that the amendments will be ready for the National Assembly soon.

It was Williams who had on June 26th, 2015 successfully piloted the bill catering for the establishment of the authority.

When asked to explain the turn of events, he said that things were set in motion while government was occupying the opposition benches. According to him, at that time, they did not understand what was really happening. “We weren’t in the loop,” he said, before adding that having taken office and recognising the error made, government is now taking corrective action.

Williams stressed that as Guyana prepares for the next evaluation round, great caution must be exercised because “we never had a money laundering prosecution much less a conviction.” He said that having identified the main areas of risk, Guyana now has to coordinate and put money into those areas in time for the upcoming mutual evaluation. The evaluation is set for the 4th quarter of 2021 but the process is likely to start a year ahead of this time.

It was during an AML/CFT meeting here in Georgetown last November that Williams was told that the planned authority would be illegal and should not be proceeded with. While Williams had later been reported as saying that the authority would be scrapped, other members of government appeared to be at sea as to what was happening.

Both the Chairman of the Appointments Committee Dr George Norton and Minister of State Joseph Harmon had said subsequent to Williams’ reported statement that the authority would be going ahead.

Christopher Ram, Gerry Gouveia, Nicholas Deygoo, Wayne Fordyce, Hance Manohar, Thomas Bissessar Singh, Frederick Collins, Mohamed Alli, Melissa De Santos and Sadie Amin were the proposed nominees to be considered by the House. They had been selected after a drawn-out process that entailed extensive background checks.

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

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.

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