Guyanese have to understand importance of complying with anti-laundering rules

Dear Editor,

I refer to the article titled, `Caricom worried at possible UK anti-laundering sanctions on associate members’ (SN April 29).  While the coverage focused primarily on associate members, the sharpness of scrutiny, and the possibility of crippling sanctions extends to some of the nations with full membership, and none more so than those publicly labeled major money laundering countries.  This should be worrying for Guyana and all Guyanese.

Because of this, it is both astonishing and disappointing that a great mass of citizens, including some who should know better, are casual at best, and resistant at worst to anti-money laundering procedures implemented by multiple domestic institutions.  Men who know the stakes are disdainful; those who are ignorant of what is involved express impatience and indifference.  Here is the in-the-face, drop-dead, showstopper: this country wants to do and seeks to do business with the countries where the demand resides.  It is not the other way around.  Guyana desires to do business more (repeat: more) than potential partners want to do with us.  If Caricom is worried, so am I.

Editor, I started sharing at least 10 years ago in this newspaper, that the swinging era of fast, fancy money would have its day of reckoning.  That day is now and it is not going away; it is also neither negotiable nor open to pushback.  The former is close to expiration, while the latter is a nonstarter.  Thus, I think it vitally necessary for Guyanese to understand and appreciate that anti-money laundering actions, as pursued and insisted upon by any organization of standing, are not cumulatively something that is either nice to have, or merely for the cosmetics, but meaningful and integral to the acceptable conduct of 21st century international commerce and trade, as dictated by the big boys.  They are real big boys, and it would be suicidal to get on the sanctions side of them.  It is the major powers that are calling the shots on what constitutes applicable policies and standards.  None of this is unknown; and whether justified or not (and I believe that they are), these same powers monopolize the first and last words on what must prevail.

I agree that, at first blush, the demands can appear to be intrusive and burdensome; but a close honest look points out the fallacies behind such claims and postures.  The standards and supporting documents require that: each prove who they claim to be; each furnish a commercial or work history; each outline traceable financial background.  I venture that this is not radically different from what was normal decades ago (pre-AML days) under the heading of, “Biographic Information.”  In some respects, it is somewhat near to an official employment application, or one for a loan.  How this rises to the pitch of onerous and prohibitively expensive boggles the mind.  As also stated several times prior, any self-respecting person or business with nothing to conceal (or fear) would not-or should not-have any difficulty what amounts to run-of-the-mill attesting documents.  This is neither arcane science nor witches’ brew, but plain commonsense, business sense, and horse sense, too.

Again, and for emphasis, I share a personal experience that has left some residual anger, if not discomfort.  I maintained a relationship with a local entity for almost 30 years.  Still, I was called upon to hand over documents that were there before.  I did so willingly.  The problems came about when I was asked to produce the same records for a couple of years running.  When I objected, apologies were offered, but I still had to deliver; I trust that it was for the last time.  Because of this, I think that local businesses could have done better to educate and condition relationships as to what is involved, and how to go about honouring; and after fulfillment, establish robust recordkeeping standards.  I detect that there was serious failure in each of these areas; and that the public was presented with the equivalent of: shape up or ship out; and deliver or depart.  There was a heavy-handed fear embedded in all of this.  I further submit that this was not a good way of going about something so sensitive and so significant to Guyana’s prospects of lifting itself out of the terrible place in which it has been almost intractably mired for decades now.

As if to compound a bad situation, citizens (individuals and businesses) having grown fat, complacent, and prosperous through perpetration and perpetuation of a nefarious way of life (a dangerous confidence trickster culture), discover themselves endangered and, hence, powerfully and unalterably opposed to any procedural enhancements and obligations.  The risks of exposure and enfeebling are overwhelmingly stark.

In spite of the resistance, and to his credit, the Attorney General, Mr. Basil Williams, has signaled a steely determination and ferocious urgency towards making this country deliver on AML expectations and mandates.  He has his work cut out for him; and he has to wonder sometimes as to whose hands (and how many) are really on the wheel and are unswervingly committed to delivering on the objectives identified for Guyana.  He has to stay the course, come what may.

When looked at clinically, Guyana’s choice is clear: if it seeks to do business with the major players, then there is only one known road to follow.  It can bring the rewards of respect, pride, and standing in the fraternity of nations that counts.  Doing otherwise, through continuing the political protections and farcical games of before, the lukewarm responses, and deliberately ramshackle enforcement all doom this state to become not only a pariah, but a criminal one, and with all the evils that accompany.

So what will it be: the appurtenances of pawnbroking, moneylending, loansharking, selling and buying, street level, under-the table, beyond the radar activities?  Or that which incorporates paper trails, reputable businesses, and ethical people?

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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