SARA, FIU seal intel sharing pact

The State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalise information sharing.

Speaking at the signing, which was held in the SARA boardroom at Main and New Market streets, Georgetown, FIU head Matthew Langevine stressed that the MoU is aimed at fostering cooperation and specifically the sharing of intelligence so as to ensure effectiveness in the execution of the two entities’ respective mandates and functions.

The FIU, which acts as the national reservoir for the relevant financial information, he said, has recognised the importance of having access to the widest possible range of information that can help to promote and intensify its mandate, which includes facilitating the detection and deterrence of money laundering and terrorist financing and other financial crimes by extension.

Langevine noted that the intelligence expected to be produced by the FIU must be of the “highest quality” to sufficiently support the work of the law enforcement agencies. “It therefore cannot operate in isolation. It must ensure collaborative arrangements are in place and all relevant stakeholders and authorities with the Anti-Money Laundering/Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) framework are involved,” he added.

He also underscored the importance of the pact in the context of Guyana’s Financial Action Task Force (FATF) responsibilities, while pointing out that in addition to the local AML/CFT fight, Guyana is in the midst of the fourth round mutual evaluation preparation. He stressed that the MoU is in keeping within the commitment to sharing and collaborating with agencies involved in the AML/CFT fight.

While noting that the protection of people’s personal information is of critical importance, Langevine also said the MoU would ensure that the respective agencies conduct their statutory duties in a “safe and responsible” manner.

Meanwhile, SARA Director, Professor Clive Thomas said that the two entities are mandated by international as well as domestic legislation to co-operate because “both of us share the same set of goals and these relate to a reduction of corruption both as a national good and as an international obligation.”

He said that the increasing tendency globally is for it to be recognised that the fight against corruption is the fight to promote the welfare and well-being of the population as public corruption is seen as the “single biggest deterrent” to development.

While noting that SARA’s mandate is the recovery of stolen state assets, Thomas said that the main focus now is to bring such matters before the court through civil litigation. He informed that this will be happening sometime after the end of June this year.

He further said that in criminal proceedings which fall under the remit of the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), there may be efforts at a recovery of stolen assets and in this regard SARA will not pursue civil recovery in the court. If there are no efforts to seek recovery through criminal proceedings, then it is the responsibility of SARA to pursue civil recovery.

According to Thomas, a number of cases sent to SOCU and the Police Legal Advisor have had recommendations that the recovery portion be undertaken by SARA. “So, in a sense, they are trying to urge us to work in a symbiotic relation to ensure that justice is ensured,” he explained.

Thomas said only recently SARA received some of these recommendations from the Police Legal Advisor. “We are bound and responsible by this recommendation to pursue them and we are committed to pursuing each and every one of them,” he noted.

Thomas stressed that the MoU is a movement in the direction of formalising a mechanism for the support that SARA has previously received from the FIU, which would also lay the “legal foundation for seeking to recover both the assets of the state and also preventing money laundering and terrorist financing.”

He later told reporters that while the two entities may not have all the necessary resources, given “the context of Guyana and the pressures under which we have to work because of the prevailing levels of insufficiency of funds, I think we are… adequately endowed to pursue these tasks.”

He said that SARA in particular is satisfied with the quantum of resources it has at its disposal but believes that “cooperation is the best way to go.” He reminded that the FIU in the past has helped SARA to monitor some movements of funds. “We are trying to make do with what we have but… the foundation must be cooperation rather than pulling against each other,” he added.

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