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Guyana getting tools to fight money laundering

map_of_GuyanaKey Western nations are helping Guyana combat money laundering, bribery and drug trafficking through tougher laws, a move President Donald Ramotar said would help strengthen the country’s moral fibre.

“Our actions are not only because we want to meet our international commitment and our international treaty obligations but it’s also important for the moral life in our society- fighting against these corruptions that these things bring about,” he said.

With A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) parliamentarians Carl Greenidge and Joseph Harmon seated in the front row at the Grand Coastal Inn, Ramotar said he hoped that opposition would support the soon to be tabled amendments to the anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism laws. The amendments, he said, were examined as late as Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.

The Guyanese leader was speaking at the opening of a Financial Crimes Stakeholder Meeting that was co-sponsored by the United States Embassy, the British High Commission, the Canadian High Commission, and the European Union Delegation in Guyana. The workshop was aimed  at supporting efforts to strengthen its anti-money laundering and financial crimes capacity, review progress that has been made, and identify next steps to address remaining gaps.

This is Ramotar’s latest in a series of repeated public pronouncements against drug trafficking and money laundering regarded in some quarters as an attempt to break with the perception of the government prior to November 2011. Although Guyana has enacted anti-money laundering legislation, there has been no prosecution of suspected washers of illicit proceeds or cocaine barons.

The President also on Wednesday pledged his administration’s “strong political will” in addressing drug trafficking, money laundering, against the backdrop of increasing rumours. “We also appreciate how important it is in addressing macro-economic stability and also in addressing the rumours and allegations about money laundering and the parallel economy in Guyana; the rumours seem to be getting more intense these days,” he said.

Ramotar said Guyana needed to address corruption not only in government agencies but also in the business community where the bribers are located. “We have to deal with it from both ends. We must make this intolerable. We must make the morality of our society strong enough for anyone to resist giving a bribe and for any official to resist accepting a bribe,” he said.

Guyana has identified investigation and legislation as the two major areas in fighting money laundering.

United States Ambassador, Brent Hardt welcomed Guyana’s commitment to fight those trans-boundary crimes.“We appreciate Guyana’s willingness to work with us and with its Caribbean neighbours to investigate and prosecute corruption, enforce anti-bribery laws, fight money laundering, and deny safe haven to illicit assets.  We stand ready to support Guyana’s commitment to strip criminals of their illicit wealth and sever their access to the global financial system.

Facilitators from the workshop have been drawn from the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force- the regional body of 29 members states that is at the forefront of Caribbean efforts to develop and promote national policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing- the US Treasury Department’s Office of Technical Assistance (OTA) and the United Kingdom’s Caribbean Criminal Assets Recovery Program (CCARP).

CCARP is likewise actively engaged with the Government of Guyana in boosting capacity to conduct financial crimes investigations.  It is currently developing its action plan with the Government and providing funds and expertise to draft legislative amendments that will bring Guyana into compliance with CFATF standards.

Canada will also be providing assistance to Guyana‘s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) under its Deployment for Democratic Development (DDD) Program.  This engagement will provide for a specialist in anti-money laundering regulations, who will concentrate on high risk sectors.